The Queen 'is holding us to ransom', say villagers

Fury at Duchy of Lancaster's plans to build 4,000 homes on green belt

In the red corner there are revolting villagers. In the blue corner, Her Majesty the Queen. At stake is a corner of England's green and pleasant land that the former want preserved and the latter is proposing to build more than 4,000 homes on.

The Duchy of Lancaster estate, which manages royal lands, has submitted plans to build two villages together with an industrial site on land it owns near Crewe in Cheshire. The proposals include building on nearly 700 acres of green-belt land. The plans come as the Campaign to Protect Rural England warned the countryside faces devastation with the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) coming into force. Around 80,000 houses are being proposed in green belts, according to the CPRE.

The duchy submitted the plans to Cheshire East Council, and, if approved, construction will begin in 2015. The duchy provides private income for the Queen.

The scheme has provoked a citizens' revolt in the nearby village of Barthomley, pictured above. Locals say the proposals will destroy their way of life. Two neighbouring councils have also objected to the plans, saying they will harm businesses and regeneration in their area, and Edward Timpson, MP for Crewe and Nantwich, has come out in support of opponents.

Barthomley residents have already accused the duchy of submitting its latest plans at the last minute to prevent them from objecting. The duchy argues its plans will support jobs, deliver new homes and provide "opportunities for green infrastructure" and "enhanced access to the countryside".

The duchy also said the plans will "contribute vital land required for the upgrading of the A500 to junction 16 of the M6". Until recently, Cheshire East has used compulsory purchase orders to buy land to extend the A500, but the duchy is exempt. Campaigners argue the Queen's estate is exerting its influence by offering land in exchange for vast areas of green belt for building. The deal will be worth hundreds of millions of pounds. According to its submission it proposes building on 700 acres of green belt land "west of the M6 but north of the A500 … as this landscape makes a limited contribution".

New rules require council planners to be in favour of "sustainable development" when making decisions. The Queen received £12.9m from the duchy towards her private income in the last financial year, a drop from £13.3m in the previous 12-month period. The Crewe estate is worth almost £63m.

At the end of the last financial year, the Duchy of Lancaster had more than £400m in net assets. It is one of two royal duchies in England, the other being the Duchy of Cornwall, which provides Prince Charles with his private income.

Tom Wilde, chair of the Barthomley Action Group, told The IoS: "The duchy is holding the local authority to ransom on this with the council very clear in their ambition to widen the road. Planning such huge developments should not be done on a quid pro quo basis like this. The building of the new villages will destroy hundreds of acres of the green belt and will be devastating for our village." The group is seeking to raise £10,000 in donations for a legal advice fighting fund to oppose duchy moves.

Sir Andrew Motion, chairman of the CPRE, said last week the new planning rules will "wreck the countryside". He said: "Developing greenfield sites unnecessarily and with inadequate local consultation is the wrong way to make sure that we get the new homes the country so badly needs."

Roughly 13 per cent of England's land area is designated as green belt, covering more than 1.6 million hectares. The CPRE is urging people to write to their MPs as it campaigns to prevent a "building free-for-all".

The National Trust's chairman, Sir Simon Jenkins, said last week only designated national parks will enjoy "full safeguarding" and that the new planning laws had resulted in "pandemonium". He added: "This is upending brownfield first in favour of greenfield first."

Ruth Rosenau, a Stoke-on-Trent city councillor, said: "We do not feel there is justification to build at this location. We are also opposed to a significant amount of office space being created." Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council is also negotiating with Cheshire East Council after objecting to the duchy's plans because it says local businesses will be harmed.

A Duchy of Lancaster spokeswoman said: "Major change is always unsettling and, while we understand the views expressed by those affected, the duchy has a responsibility and the opportunity to make a substantial contribution to the aspirations of the elected council and believes that it must consider the housing and employment needs of the wider society. The planning consultation is in its initial stages and the question of any sale of land has not been addressed as yet."

A spokesman for Cheshire East Council said the plans were being considered.

Suggested Topics
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Sport
Gabriel Agbonlahor, Alexis Sanchez, Alan Pardew and Graziano Pelle
footballAfter QPR draw, follow Villa vs Arsenal, Newcastle vs Hull and Swansea vs Southampton
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... with this review
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
New Articles
i100
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam