AN ACTION group opposed to a development of up to 600 properties and a 62-bed care home is continuing its battle to block the scheme.

The Save Land North of Merley group had been due to present a petition of more than 1,000 signatures to a BCP Council meeting on March 31.

However, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic they were unable to take this step in their fight against the proposals from Richborough Estates.

Concerned residents have been actively opposing the plans for the former Green Belt land in Merley since October 2018, with a packed public meeting of more than 300 people taking place last summer after a planning application had been submitted.

Last week, the action group was informed that a £500 donation had been made by the local branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) to go towards the costs of hiring an air quality consultant to assess the impact of the proposed development.

This comes after the resident-led movement commissioned a report by a transport consultant to counter the views presented by the applicants.

Frank Ahern, chair of the Save Land North of Merley committee, said: "People assume that the planning application is all over bar the shouting – that it will inevitably be nodded through. This is simply not true.

"There are ongoing problems with the application. We continue to fight it vigorously and, when it comes before the planning committee, we will present our own report on the weaknesses of the application."

Last month, the group organised a fundraising dog walk along part of the Stour Valley Way, which raised funds for the organisation and Waggy Tails charity, as well as drawing attention to concerns over the Suitable Alternative Natural Green space (SANG) that is proposed for Canford Magna, which forms part of the development.

Richborough Estates submitted their planning application to BCP Council in July 2019.

Speaking at the time, Robert Mitchell, Richborough Estates' senior regional manager for the south west, said: "Ultimately, we believe this application could have a major and positive impact on the social, economic and environmental fabric of the area.

"It could not only provide new housing but also open up access to the River Stour which links the wider Stour Valley Initiative and a whole range of new parkland features throughout the site."