A planning application to build a car park and toilet block as part of a development of 800 homes in countryside of historical and cultural significance is set to be decided tonight (Tuesday).

Planning permission to build 800 homes and a primary school in Forster Country - land between North Road and Weston Road in Stevenage - has already been granted by Stevenage Borough Council.

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.

Now, permission is being sought by developers Bellway Homes and Miller Homes to create a country park, with a 50-space car park, toilet block, community orchard, and hay and wild flower meadows.


Dozens of people have objected to the country park plans, with concerns including "unacceptable impact on wildlife", "destruction of an important piece of English heritage" and lack of consultation.

Hundreds of people also objected to the 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, said: “To destroy beautiful countryside in aid of a car park is bad enough, but to destroy countryside with such a heritage, and of such value to the economy in terms of tourism, is sheer madness. It has to be re-thought.”

However, the council's planning officer has recommended its Planning and Development Committee, which is meeting at 6.30pm tonight (Tuesday) to discuss the country park application, grants planning permission.


She said: "The proposals for the use of the land as a country park are considered to be acceptable.

"The works, including the construction of foot/cycleways, a toilet block and car park, as well as the provision of various street furniture, are considered to provide significant public benefit to the use of this land by the public as a country park."