Former poet laureate backs campaign to protect ‘treasured’ Essex meadow from mega housing development

The Stonepath Meadow Residents Group with Sir Andrew Motion. Left to right: Mark East, Julia East, S

The Stonepath Meadow Residents Group with Sir Andrew Motion. Left to right: Mark East, Julia East, Sir Andrew Motion, Margaret Freeman, Mike Renow and Patricia Moxey Picture STONEPATH MEADOW RESIDENTS GROUP - Credit: STONEPATH MEADOW RESIDENTS GROUP

Celebrated former poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion is backing a fight to save an ancient Essex meadow from developers’ bulldozers.

The established writer, who grew up near Stisted in the Braintree district, met with residents of nearby Hatfield Peverel to oppose a housing development that threatens to destroy valuable countryside and put a strain on rural communities.

The controversial 140-home development has been earmarked for an ancient field known as Stonepath Meadow – despite ongoing resistance from a residents group established to oppose the plans.

The Stonepath Meadow Residents Group, which has the support of Priti Patel, MP for Witham, even suggested an alternative brownfield site for the development.

The case in Hatfield Peverel was considered so concerning that the secretary of state for communities and local government took it for re-examination at a “Call In” public inquiry – with the outcome expected to be announced later this month.

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It has already been established that Stonepath Meadow is home to 10 threatened bird species, in addition to rare protected amphibians and mammals.

Sir Motion, who now lives in the USA, wrote a blog for CPRE back in April opposing a “stampede to build homes” – which he claimed “forced unsustainable development on communities already struggling with overstretched infrastructure and shrinking green spaces”.

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He wrote: “In my home county of Essex, CPRE has been supporting the village of Hatfield Peverel in their fight against 140 homes promoted by speculators on a beloved field known as Stonepath Meadow. Local people want to see a nearby brownfield site prioritised for affordable housing instead and have gone to the trouble of producing a neighbourhood plan to show how this could be achieved. Strategically placed right next to the train station, their alternative site could accommodate even more homes without sacrificing an inch of countryside.

“The villagers await the outcome of a public inquiry that could demonstrate whether the government is really serious about fixing the short-sighted mess that planning has become.”

Sir Motion was poet laureate from 1999 until 2009, and is currently touring the UK with his latest book of poetry inspired by his home country: ‘Essex Clay’.

Patricia Moxey, vice-chairman of the Essex branch of CPRE, said: “I felt it was so important to thank Sir Andrew in person. It is wonderful that such an eminent poet has given his support to protecting the countryside around Hatfield Peverel.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and it was a privilege to meet Sir Andrew after the show. I shall treasure my copy of Sir Andrew’s new poetry book - Essex Clay.”

Kevin Dale, from the Stone Path Meadow Residents Group, said: “That our particular case was Called-In indicates grave concerns over this case in Hatfield Peverel, where potential developers are abusing the National Planning System, are failing to respect the wishes of the local community and appear intent to build on valuable and irreplaceable countryside”.

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