People from Arcadia end long march

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Villagers from a rural community once described as Arcadia arrived at the House of Lords yesterday after walking from Wales in a last-ditch attempt to save their homes.

Three people from Holt's Field, near Swansea, marched more than 300 miles to lobby Parliament where five senior law lords were sitting to hear why their homes should be saved from the bulldozer.

Members of the community have fought for eight years to save their unusual properties - 27 wooden chalets on 14 acres of land in a conservation area.

The properties were praised by The Prince of Wales's architectural magazine, Perspectives, for being eco-friendly.

The site is one of the few developments of its type surviving from between the wars, dating from 1932.

The chalets were built as holiday villas and became temporary homes during the Second World War, then permanent ones. There is no proper drainage system or mains water supply and some of the residents still use wood- burning stoves and have outside lavatories.

Until six years ago, the residents - about 80 adults and children - paid a licence fee to the then owner to live there. But then Tim Jones, a property developer, bought the land for a reported pounds 175,000 and announced development plans to build luxury flats instead.

Mr Jones, a solicitor who runs the Swansea property company Elitestone, has refused the residents' offer to buy the site for pounds 500,000 and despite being refused permission to re- develop the site, won Court of Appeal rulings in 1995 for re-possession of a number of the properties.

Before yesterday's hearing, he said: "It was clear to the residents when the lease was secured that they could live there in the short term only."

But Sadie Bowen, 96, who has been there for 37 years, said: "This is my home and I will defend it to the bitter end."

Isabel Griffin, a campaign coordinator for the housing charity Shelter in Swansea, said there used to be many similar communities in Britain but most had died out.

"It deserves to be preserved. It's a tiny bit of magic tucked away and is just really lovely," she said.

The site has woodland on two sides and fields on the others. Welsh Office officials once described it as being like Arcadia, the legendary Greek idyll.

Yesterday's hearing at the House of Lords was as a last court of appeal. Judgment is expected in six to eight weeks.