Residents of Wardle, South Cheshire win green protest

PUBLISHED: 11:06 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:04 20 February 2013

Edward Timpson with daughter, Elizabeth (2), Lee and Clarissa Bateup with son,
Sam (3), Annabelle O'Keefe (12) and Juliet Kirby with son Matthew (aged 3)

Edward Timpson with daughter, Elizabeth (2), Lee and Clarissa Bateup with son, Sam (3), Annabelle O'Keefe (12) and Juliet Kirby with son Matthew (aged 3)

Jan Roberts tastes victory with the protesting villagers of Wardle and Barbridge<br/>Photographs: John Cocks

THEY say victory is sweet and the people of South Cheshire are tasting it more than most after winning a triumphant battle over plans to build a 7,000 home 'eco village' on their doorstep.

There was uproar when developers, Pochin's, unveiled a scheme to create a carbon-neutral new town swallowing up miles of open countryside surrounding the canalside villages of Wardle and Barbridge, near Nantwich.With a population of 17,000, Need Green would have seen shops, restaurants and pubs built in green fields which form a picturesque backdrop to boating activities on the Shropshire Union Canal.



Within hours of hearing the news, a 'Stop Need Green' action group had formed, protest banners were made and TV stations contacted.

More than 10,000 campaign leaflets were printed and teams of volunteers trudged miles to put them through letterboxes. A website was set up and a petition circulated by email and in village shops and pubs. Even playgroups and aerobics classes had a special link to where the petition could be signed.

Everyone, from housewives and farmers to business people and landowners, was prepared to do anything to protect their rural landscape from becoming a building site for up to 15 years.

When the BBC and ITV, descended, mums stood outside village schools directing pram-pushing supporters to the spot where film crews were positioned with their cameras on a canal bridge overlooking the rolling countryside they were determined to protect.

Suddenly villagers had become PR savvy and willing to accept the glare of publicity to save their little piece of England from development. They spoke on radio and TV and were ready to turn up to a photo opportunity at the drop of a hat. No group of protestors could have presented a more united front to the hoards of reporters who swooped to cover the tale of country-dwellers versus a Government driven-development.

And their hard work was swiftly rewarded. A week after the bombshell was dropped, they were celebrating victory. A protest march by more than 1,000 villagers along the A51 Chester road was called off. The paint on their placards was barely dry when Pochin's withdrew the scheme due to the weight of public opinion.

It was people power at its best. The sheer scale of the project was a frightening prospect not just for them, but for the people of Nantwich. Only a short distance away, they feared the historic town would lose its identity by merging with the new town to create one city.


Campaigners saved the day and there was a ripple of relief across South Cheshire. Instead of placards they armed themselves with champagne to celebrate at the Jolly Tar pub in Wardle where they had planned to meet for the protest march.

While joyful at their victory, there was a wartime spirit of being ready to fight again should another developer come forward with a similar scheme. Protest banners and placards would not be scrapped, but carefully stored away should they need to rally to the frontline again.

Even Pochin's PLC has recognised their effort. In a statement, the Cheshire-based company, said: 'The strong local opposition to the Wardle proposal is now clear and in response we have withdrawn the application. We acknowledge the part the local action group played in representing the views of the community'

Bunbury resident and Stop Need Green campaign spokesman, Philip Elsegood, said: 'Pochin's responded quickly and responsibly to the public outcry but there is always the chance another developer may come forward with a plan which we will, of course, fight equally hard.


This is Greenfield Cheshire and we want it kept that way. ' Mr Elsegood, an accountant based in Knutsford, added: 'Quite the reverse of being a 'green scheme,' this socalled eco-village would have generated an extra 10,000 plus cars adding to congestion on local roads especially the A51.

'We didn't have the infrastructure for a development of that magnitude, nor indeed the need for it, when there are so many homes already on the market. 'While we are all extremely relieved to have defeated this scheme, we are aware money may talk. Who knows, a land owner may be tempted to sell. If so we are staying vigilant and developers be warned - we are ready to take up arms again.'

Their concern is fuelled by Prime Minister, Gordon Brown's promise to build a total of ten eco-towns across the country. Each is to offer excellent public transport links, a good balance of affordable housing as well as schools, shops and leisure facilities. The developments will need to achieve zero carbon while being shining examples of responsible member of the local and regional communities.


The eco towns scheme required application to be made to central government for consideration for inclusion on a short-list. If the Wardle site had been short-listed by central Government there would then have been an opportunity for full local consultation.

The strong local opposition to the Wardle proposal is now clear and in response to this Pochin's PLC has withdrawn the application, by writing the letters referred to above.

Pochin's acknowledges the part which the local action group has played in representing the views of the community.' Several weeks later neighbours in the villages of Bunbury, Haughton, Cholmondeston and Calveley are still feeling an immense sense of relief. Calveley resident, Kathryn Jones, said: 'Eco villages are a good idea for brownfield sites but not the countryside. Apart from one small industrial estate, this area is not industrial at all but a rural retreat.

People come here to enjoy the tranquil canal cruises, farmhouse B&Bs and pub lunches by the waterside. Thanks to the campaigners, our area has been saved from becoming one big sprawling concrete mass.

Even Pochin's PLC has recognised their effort. In a statement, the Cheshire-based company, said: 'The strong local opposition to the Wardle proposal is now clear and in response we have withdrawn the application. We acknowledge the part the local action group played in representing the views of the community'

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