RESIDENTS and environmental campaigners from Bradford on Avon have mounted a protest to stop housebuilding on the town's former golf course.

They met on Saturday April 24 to walk along a stretch of land alongside the River Avon, the site of a privately-owned golf course to highlight the need to protect existing wildlife habitats from destruction by development.

Wiltshire Council has earmarked the land for housing in its recent Local Plan Review consultation which ended in March, alongside two other sites at Woolley.

The walk also marked the 89th anniversary of the Kinder Scout mass trespass in 1932, a protest which resulted in the right to roam legislation giving everyone access to uncultivated and common land.

The walk was supported by Bradford on Avon Extinction Rebellion members whose spokeswoman Louise Weissel said: “The abandoned golf course provides invaluable habitat for wildlife at a time when residents need and value the natural world on their doorstep.

"There has been extensive development elsewhere on the outskirts of the town. Green spaces are needed to safeguard nature and allow residents to exercise in a pleasant environment.

"There are numerous brownfield sites around the town that could be used for affordable housing rather than letting developers swallow up more of the countryside.”

The walk covered a former landfill site now covered by soil and grass, but which contains contaminated waste below the surface.

Residents argue the site is unsuitable for housing development and should remain undisturbed for the community to use for exercise, getting in touch with nature and for their well-being.

Locals have strongly objected to housing on the site, which has been the subject of a few planning applications.

Local resident Sarah said: "I can remember coming here as a kid when it was a landfill site and there were pots of lead paint, buckets of oil, old cars and all sorts, but it's lovely to go there now and walk along next to the river.”

Viv Talbot, a local resident and supporter of Extinction Rebellion said: “As well as drawing attention to the threat to this land we were also walking in solidarity with many other groups across the UK.

"Hundreds of groups were taking the same action on Saturday to mark the achievement of a mass trespass back in 1932. Their protest resulted in legislation which gave ordinary men and women the right to roam. We’re all benefiting from the risks they took.”

Bath and North East Somerset Council has designated the Avon River valley as an essential part of ‘blue/green’ infrastructure to protect wildlife habitats.

Locals are calling for Wiltshire Council to work with BaNES to continue a wildlife corridor through the county.

Wildlife corridors connect wildlife populations that would otherwise be separated by human activities or structures such as roads, other infrastructure development, or logging and farming.

They play a hugely important role in maintaining connections between animal and plant populations that would otherwise be isolated and therefore at greater risk of local extinction.

The Kinder Scout event saw a group of 500 working men and women undertaking a mass trespass in the Peak District as a protest for their right to roam uncultivated and common land. Five men were jailed but the action eventually led to legislation establishing access, the National Parks and the Countryside Code.

In defiance of unjust, oppressive laws, the Kinder Scout trespass grew from the actions of 500 working men and women to a protest movement of over 10,000 people in just three weeks.

An Extinction Rebellion spokesperson said, “Today, taxpayers give £3 billion a year to landowners and yet we are denied access to 92 per cent of the land in England and much of it is criminally misused.

"Moors and peatland are burned for the sake of grouse shooting, large areas of land are deforested for manicured estates and golf courses and fossil fuel extraction destroys natural landscapes and wildlife.

"We have come a long way since 1932 but we need to safeguard these precious pockets of land - now more than ever when they have such a valuable role in combatting climate change.”