People battling to keep fields around Southam’s historic Holy Well free of housing have another battle on their hands – this time with the Church.
Residents are already fighting moves by Redrow Homes which could see up to 85 homes built by Holy Well Field, an open space enjoyed for hundreds of years.
Now the Coventry Diocese has revealed it is in talks with a developer about selling its land next to the field eyed up by Redrow.
The move has angered and surprised many in Southam, said Gareth Oubridge of the Save Holy Well Field campaign.
He said: “You can imagine the sense of betrayal a lot of local people are feeling about this.
“If the Church pleads ‘poverty’, then we’re going to be even crosser – apart from the enormous historic wealth the Church has.
“It is also the landowner behind the Taylor Wimpey proposal to build on the Mayfield land north of Southam, so already stands to make millions in profit on that development.
“It doesn’t need to do this as well – it’s greedy, opportunistic and amoral.”
The Holy Well is thought to be at least 1,000 years old and is a Grade-II listed monument.
The surrounding fields are in what is designated by Stratford District Council as the Stowe Valley Area of Restraint, where there is a presumption against development to protect a “distinctive and attractive green corridor” to the town centre.
The Rev John Armstrong, Priest-in-Charge of St James, Southam, was given the task of formally telling parishioners of the diocesan move in a statement read out at a service recently.
A Coventry Diocese board of finance statement said: “The diocese owns a plot of land in Southam between the Banner Homes development (old sewage works) and the back of the houses on Holywell Road and Mill Crescent, going down to the River Stowe.
“The diocese is in discussions with a developer who would like to have the option of buying this land.
“The diocese is not taking a position on whether or not the land should be developed and, if so, which part of the land.
“That will be a matter for the planning authorities in consultation with the local community via the usual planning application process.
“ Under the terms of the option being discussed, any land sold to the developer would only be that needed for the development for which planning permission is actually awarded.
“The remainder of the land, together with access rights to it, would be retained by the Diocese of Coventry.
“The land is not to be confused with two other areas of land.
“1. Some land that lies to the north of Southam (and to the west of Coventry Road). The Diocese of Coventry has recently granted Taylor Wimpey the option to buy this land.
“2. A field that borders the Holy Well, which we understand that Redrow Homes is seeking to develop. That field is not owned by the diocese.”