Hundreds of people took to the streets in a “save our countryside” protest against controversial government plans to relax planning laws.
More than 250 people gathered in the East Devon village of Feniton on Saturday to express their fears over the impact on rural areas of the new national planning policy framework coming into force this week.
Campaigners say the thousands of new homes planned in the district would destroy vast swathes of the countryside and overwhelm numerous local communities.
“Feniton epitomises all that is wrong with government rules on planning,” said Claire Wright, Independent East Devon District Councillor for Ottery Rural including Feniton.
The village could see its population surge by 40% if plans submitted for over 300 new homes get the go-ahead.
Protesters gathered next to a field where developers want to build 50 new homes before they marched to another site earmarked for 50 dwellings.
Susie Bond, one of the protesters, claimed local communities such as Feniton were “under siege” from relaxed planning regulations and “badly served” by developers.
She said: “We care about the countryside, communities, the legacy we leave our children and we care about East Devon.”
They have dubbed March 27 as Black Wednesday when the planning regulations come into effect, and are calling for a delay on its implementation.
Planning Minister Nick Boles has reportedly disclosed to undercover Daily Telegraph reporters that he is poised to axe the planning permission requirement for many developments.
Last week, Mr Boles attended a meeting with some of the country’s biggest property developers in which he said he was prepared for an acrimonious battle with countryside campaigners.
Claire Wright, speaking at the protest, warned Mr Boles to expect the “biggest battle of your career” if he refused to protect the countryside. She added: “We will never allow you and your fellow philistine ministers, to desecrate our beautiful East Devon.”