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A village’s fight to save its Green Belt

Christopher Dean
By Christopher Dean

In the picturesque village of Bishops Wood in South Staffordshire, a compelling story of community activism is unfolding, driven by a fierce commitment to preserve the Green Belt. This narrative of vigilance and unity demonstrates the profound impact of collective action in protecting rural communities from inappropriate development.

Nestled close to the Shropshire border, the South Staffordshire village of Bishops Wood enjoys a picturesque rural setting amidst rolling countryside. The landscape is predominantly agricultural, enriched with fields, woodlands, and scattered lakes.

“The countryside represents a vital escape from the rush of day to day life. It’s where we connect with nature, enjoy the quiet, and remember the importance of preserving our natural environments for everyone to enjoy. For me personally it’s a place to recharge and recover.”

The catalyst for the community’s mobilisation was the proposal of two speculative developments that together aim to introduce 180 houses to a village that currently comprises only about 270 houses. This significant potential increase in housing posed a serious threat to the rural character and ecological balance of Bishops Wood, sparking immediate and decisive action.

Residents quickly rallied to gather over 900 signatures through a community petition, clearly demonstrating their commitment to preserving the village’s green spaces and rural charm. This initial action not only showcased community solidarity but also set the stage for more structured advocacy efforts.

Buoyed by this initial surge of support, the community then took their cause to the local political arena, engaging with councillors and the local MP, Sir Gavin Williamson. These discussions helped elevate Bishops Wood’s concerns within local parish and district council deliberations, ensuring that the voices of the village were heard in local meetings and debates.

As the campaign gained momentum, the villagers achieved another significant victory by securing Tree Preservation Orders for several of the village’s cherished trees. This was made possible through the swift and proactive action of South Staffordshire Council’s Senior Arboricultural Officer, who recognised the urgency and supported the community’s efforts to legally protect their green spaces. This added a crucial layer of legal protection and reinforced the commitment to environmental stewardship.

The village has also engaged with CPRE, seeking to leverage their expertise and resources. This collaboration aims to enhance the village’s strategic actions and broaden the impact of their advocacy. The community looks forward to working closely with CPRE to further strengthen their efforts in protecting the local Green Belt.

Today, Bishops Wood continues to engage with the Local Plan [currently at the Regulation 19 consultation stage] scrutinising every proposal to ensure that it aligns with the community’s goal of Green Belt preservation. The village stands as a testament to the effectiveness of grassroots initiatives in influencing local governance and shaping sustainable development practices.

Bishops Wood’s journey from reacting to a development threat to becoming a proactive, engaged community exemplifies how rural areas can unite to protect their natural heritage and maintain their way of life. It’s a vibrant chapter in the broader narrative of community planning and environmental advocacy, inspiring others to take action and “Keep it Green.”

A view of a tree in a field
Christopher Dean