Campaigners are rallying over contentious plans to build more than 600 homes on a greenfield site in Caerphilly, with a mass horse ride protest planned.
Around 2,600 objections have been lodged over proposals for up to 618 homes and a sports pavilion in a special landscape area in Gwern Y Domen.
The outline planning application – which will be determined by Caerphilly County Borough councillors on Wednesday, August 14 – includes 40% affordable housing, a network of cycle and pathways to get around the site and spaces for sport and play.
But the plans are facing significant opposition, with objections from politicians, residents, conservation groups and protests planned.
Objectors fear the plans – put forward by Persimmon Homes and PMG Ltd – will spoil the surrounding countryside and that there are alternative brownfield sites available for housing.
Campaigner and community councillor Jayne Garland said there is a “massive outcry” against the plans.
“People are looking at this wider than just Gwern Y Domen,” Cllr Garland said.
“The feeling is if this falls there is no hope for the other greenfield sites within the Welsh countryside.
“It’s about greed, not need, and this is the last stand.”
Protesters are set to hold a mass horse ride “in a show of outrage” at the development on Sunday.
They say horse riders would be put “at risk” by an increase in traffic.
Further protests are planned at a site visit on Monday and at the council’s planning committee meeting on Wednesday.
Two sites of importance for nature conservation (SINC) are located within the site with ancient woodland, grassland and streams.
Van Community Council has voiced concern the development would lead to the loss of trees and hedgerows and could result in a loss of habitat for some protected species.
Gwern y Domen Conservation Group says the application represents “the spread of the urban area” into countryside “to the serious detriment of the distinctive rural character of the area.”
However the application proposes enhancements for both sites, as well as funding towards the management of a pond and for planting of trees and shrubs in the area.
“The applicant has undertaken significant steps to minimise the impact of the development on the wildlife associated with the site, and has demonstrated that it is possible to mitigate the impacts on the majority of the habitats and species,” a council report says.
The site is located outside the borough’s settlement boundary, and objectors also argue there is “insufficient infrastructure” for the development.
Caerphilly AM Hefin David, Wayne David MP and Cllr Jamie Pritchard are among those to have objected.
Mr David MP said: “I have studied the planning application submitted by Persimmon Homes and PMG Limited and I have no doubt that the application should be rejected. Gwern Y Domen is a beautiful area of green fields and having so many houses in this location will have a negative impact on the road structure of Caerphilly basin.
“There is a strong public opposition to this development and the people are right – this planning application needs to be rejected.”
Caerphilly’s Assembly Member, Hefin David, has also submitted his objections to the plans, stressing that the development goes against the Welsh Government’s policy to see greenfield development ‘avoided where possible’.
In his objection letter, the AM also talked about the effect the development could have on transport.
Planning officers have recommended that if councillors decide to approve the plans the application is first referred to Welsh ministers.