The way the pampered playboys of the Premier League have snapped up relatively modest properties in the leafy villages of Prestbury and Alderley Edge in Cheshire and had them bulldozed to make way for their rather more luxurious mansions has long provoked ire, though not, to date, any action. But now, the residents are planning to take a stand.
In taking advantage of a rarely used piece of legislation that allows for a referendum if 10 or more people demand it, the villagers are hoping to put an end to what they call the "constant development" and "spoiling" of their villages.
Alderley will lead the way, with residents there hoping to hold a vote within the next few weeks. The referendum will ask villagers to either agree or disagree with a statement which claims that the houses of the mega-rich stars often flout agreed planning guidelines and that the demolition of smaller houses to make way for the mansions is wasteful and environmentally damaging.
Should a majority of residents agree with the motion it will then be handed to the local councillor, due to be elected in May, who will have to agree to stand up for the villagers in the face of developers.
Residents of Prestbury say the problem in their village is just as bad. Ian Standen, of The Edge Association, the village's campaign group, is adamant that the residents have no gripe with the influx of footballers per se, simply their penchant for knocking down good houses to build colossal mansions in their place.
He said: "For the past few years, this place has seen constant development and it is ripping out the heart of the village. In one case, a row of shops was demolished to make way for houses and in a lot of other cases perfectly good houses are being knocked down so footballers can have their mansions. I'm not talking about houses that are in a state of disrepair, I'm talking, in some cases, about houses that are just a couple of years old being knocked down."
Thelma Jackson, the Tory councillor for Prestbury, agrees. She said: "The applications are never sent in by the footballers themselves; it's usually developers who buy the houses, bulldoze them and then build huge mansions which are then sold to footballers. They buy bungalows for maybe £1m, knock them down and sell the mansions for anything up to £4.5m.
"Since Wayne Rooney moved into the village it's been like a snowball effect and there seems to have been more development with all his footballer friends moving in. We've got people like Wes Brown, Michael Carrick and Mark Hughes living in the area ... They're putting houses up to three- storeys high that just look completely out of character."Reuse content