A developer involved in a controversial project to build 800 homes in Stevenage countryside of historical and cultural significance has vowed to create "a new neighbourhood sympathetic to the unique character of the conservation area".

Outline planning permission to build 800 homes and a primary school in Forster Country - land between North Road and Weston Road - was granted by Stevenage Borough Council in September 2022.

Last month, the council approved detailed plans to deliver 243 homes in the first phase of a joint scheme by Bellway North London and Miller Homes.

Forster Country lies within the St Nicholas Conservation Area and includes author EM Forster's childhood home Rooks Nest House, Grade I-listed St Nicholas Church and Grade II-listed The Bury.


Hundreds of people objected to the proposed housing development, with concerns including urban coalescence, loss of heritage, and the development being unsustainable.

Emma Thompson, who won a Best Actress Oscar for her role in a film version of EM Forster's novel Howards End, backed a campaign by the Friends of Forster Country group to save the land from development, but to no avail.

Construction work is expected to begin this spring, with Bellway predicting development of the 183-acre site, which will include up to 800 homes, a local centre, primary school, country park and public open space, will take up to five years to complete.

Part of the first phase of the development lies within the St Nicholas Conservation Area, which includes Rooks Nest House. Bellway said: "The properties here have been carefully designed to be sensitive to their historic surroundings, with complementary character areas throughout the development."


Ali Maruf, managing director for Bellway North London, added: "We are aware of the historic literary significance of the area and are focused on creating a new neighbourhood sympathetic to the unique character of the conservation area and surrounding landscape which inspired EM Forster’s work."

Ali said the proposed mix of homes will provide new housing for a wide range of buyers, including commuters, first-time buyers, families needing more space and those looking to downsize.

"We will be working closely with a local housing association to ensure the development will also benefit local people and provide a chance for keyworkers and those on lower incomes to be able to secure an affordable home, whilst being able to stay close to family and friends," Ali explained.

"The new homes within the conservation area will include traditional features such as hipped roofs, tile hanging, brick arches, chimneys and gable-fronted porch canopies.


"Meanwhile, the proposed country park is set to include the restoration of hay meadows to the approximate field pattern as shown on historic maps and described in EM Forster’s texts.

"Due to the size of the development, we anticipate working on the site for up to five years and intend to play a positive role within the local community as this new neighbourhood takes shape.

"We will be delivering housing for hundreds of people and bringing investment, jobs and improvements to local facilities which will benefit both existing and new residents in the town."