Despite lashing rain, people gathered to protest at moves to build more than 80 homes on land next to the historic Holy Well in Southam.
The move by Redrow Homes has been branded “speculative and opportunistic” by Southam resident Gareth Oubridge, who along with others has set up the Save Holy Well Field protest group.
The Holy Well is thought to be at least 1,000 years old, is a Grade II-listed monument, and the nearby open space is in what is known as the Stowe Valley Area of Restraint, where there is a presumption against development.
Mr Oubridge, who lives in Hillyard Road, next to the field, said: “The rain was terrible but there was an enthusiastic turnout.
“We are getting more signing the petition and joining the campaign group. The overwhelming feeling is that the area should be saved for future generations. We are hoping Redrow will recognise this and think again.”
He said because Stratford District Council’s new Core Strategy was still being finalised, developers saw it as a “window of opportunity” and builders were willing to take council rejections of homes to appeal, such as the housing near Anne Hathaways’s Cottage at Shottery, which the district council had refused but was won at appeal.
“Redrow know that Southam people and the district council don’t want this field developed, so why are they doing it?
“It’s because Redrow know it’s the only opportunity to get this in quickly and the houses built before the new core strategy is in place.”
Joining the protest was Kenilworth and Southam MP Jeremy Wright, who said: “This is a scheduled ancient monument and a development on the scale proposed would destroy its rural setting.
“This is not just Nimbyism. This is an important piece of land for all the people of Southam and it should be protected.
“There is already substantial provision for new housing in the town, so this development is neither wanted nor needed.”
Mr Wright has contacted English Heritage, which protects historic buildings and sites, and said it had backed moves to block the homes.