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Planning appeal opens into rejected Rounton homes plan
The battle over whether a leafy corner of Watford is ancient woodland that should be preserved or turned into new homes resumed this week.
Watford Borough Council threw out controversial plans to build 45 new homes on the Rounton site off Nascot Wood Road in October on the grounds that the woodland there was ancient and merited preserving.
An appeal was launched and the planning hearing, which opened at Watford Town Hall yesterday, saw barristers for the developers and council offer their opening arguments to planning inspector Gyllian Grindley, who has the final say.
Barrister Chris Young, speaking on behalf of the developers, said the crux of the matter was whether the inspector thought the Rounton site qualified as ancient woodland.
He said his client argued it was not ancient woodland and even if the inspector disagreed, it was not of sufficient quality to justify stopping the development.
Mr Young argued that an aerial photograph of the site showed it had not always been wooded and in the early part of the last century was an estate with lawns and even a tennis court.
He added: "Many early maps (of Rounton) don’t show the wood at all."
However Robin Green, the barrister acting on behalf of Watford Borough Council, said there was evidence showing woodland on the site from 1600.
He said as well as meriting protection in itself, the woodland was home to a number of protected plants.
This week’s planning hearing is the latest twist in the long-running saga over the site, which saw planning decisions twice delayed before the plans were eventually rejected in October.
At yesterday’s hearing the planning inspector also heard from one of the borough councillors, Mark Watkin, who sat on the development control committee that rejected the plans.
He told the hearing that as well as the potential loss of the Rounton site, residents in the area were also concerned about the amount of development going on in the Nascot area gernerally.
Councillor Watkin said: "They are unhappy at the rate at which this increasingly less leafy area of Watford is being developed.
"In recent times there have been major developments at the Cassio College site, the HQ of the British waterways, the music school and a number of developments along the once appropriately named Nascot Wood Road."
He added the inspector should take the cumulative effect of all the developments in the area into account when coming to her decision.
The planning hearing is due to continue until tomorrow, after which it will be a couple of months before the planning inspector returns her decision.