Plans to build 1,000 homes on Watership Down get the go-ahead

Protestors have fought the plans for decades Credit: Say No to Sandleford

Plans to build 1,000 homes on the farmland that inspired children's classic Watership Down can go ahead, the government has ruled.

West Berkshire Council had refused the Sandleford Park scheme but developers appealed and won their fight.

Protesters say protected habitats and ancient woodlands would be put at risk by the development.

David Cooper, a founder member of campaign group Say No to Sandleford, told ITV News Meridian: "Over there is exactly the place where the original rabbit warren was that Richard Adams writes about.

David Cooper, of Say No to Sandleford, has been campaigning against the development

"It was developed, concreted over, fictionally, and now that development is going to turn into fact unfortunately."

He added: "It irreversibly destroys countryside. It irreversibly degrades ancient woodland. It irreversibly degrades the environment of West Berkshire and of Newbury.

"We don't need to be building houses on greenfield sites."

The council said it was disappointed by the government's latest ruling but homes were needed.

Author Richard Adams promoting the book in 1978 Credit: PA

Leader Lynne Doherty said: "If you want your teachers and GPs and nurses to be able to live where they work, then we need homes in the area.

"I appreciate there may be other parts of the country where you could build on brownfield sites, but here in West Berkshire, we just do not have that option."

The development includes up to 1,000 new homes, 80 extra-care housing units and a new two-form entry primary school, a new country park and the expansion of Park House School.

Plans to develop the site are a decade old. In 2012 Richard Adams himself gave his support to the fight to stop the development. He died in 2016.