CAMPAIGNERS have called on Cheshire East Council to help them protect a designated Local Wildlife Site which is currently allocated in the local plan for housing.

Dewscope Ltd has previously applied for permission to build up to 225 homes on the ‘treasured nature reserve’ on land east of Longridge at Knutsford.

In December, the council’s strategic planning board refused permission for the homes, saying it would be inappropriate development in the green belt and it would have an adverse impact on ecology and the Local Wildlife Site.

This week campaigners asked the council to take the site out of the local plan and return it to the green belt.

Speaking at Monday’s meeting of the environment and communities committee, Save Longridge Greenbelt campaigner John Finnan said developing the site would result in 500 trees being removed from fields which have been re-wilding since the mid-1940s.

And he referred to a covenant which prevents building on a strip of land needed for access, meaning access could only be obtained by intruding into the green belt.

“Longridge is a wildlife site, part of it is also ancient woodland.

“Its rich ecology, and a covenant preventing access to it, did not inform its adoption into the local plan,” Mr Finnan told the committee.

“It should never have been included.”

He said the outline planning application had been refused but the site ‘still languishes in the local plan.’

He asked: “When the time comes, what mechanism does Cheshire East Council already have in place, or will this committee now put in place, to expedite its removal from the local plan and return it and other sites like it, to the green belt?”

Reading out a response from head of planning David Malcolm, committee chair Mick Warren (Ind) said: “Through the council’s new local plan, the status of any allocated sites that have not come forward for development would be reviewed.

“However such assessments would be made much further into the plan-making process in light of the up-to-date evidence and circumstances at that time.”