The application to build a £20m “substantial dwelling house” in Blacknest Park, submitted by Lucas Design and Construction, was rejected by the Royal Borough’s planning committee last June, citing fears of it damaging wildlife and not being in character with the surrounding area.
The 15.8 acre site is inside the Green Belt, subject to a number of Tree Preservation Orders, contains ancient woodland, is a designated Local Wildlife Site and is partly within a flood zone.
Lucas Design and Construction lodged an appeal last October, which has prompted a public inquiry. During the four-day hearing, which started on Tuesday, independent planning inspector Paul Griffiths will hear evidence from the Royal Borough, protesters against the application and a spokesperson on behalf of the developer.
Protesters argue that the development would see an increased flood risk to nearby homes in Whitmore Lane, while it will also destroy valuable habitats in a Green Belt area.
Dr Andréa Berardi, who owns a five-acre plot adjoining to Blacknest Park named Granny Kettle Woods, is spearheading the fight against the plan.
He said: “This was a beautiful, growing, mature woodland. If this build goes ahead it will increase the flood risk to the adjacent road Whitmore Lane and its houses.”
However, the developer insists that a earlier flood risk assessment proves that there would be no increase and there is provision for a new landscaping scheme where new trees would be planted along with the new development.
Dr Berardi has raised concerns that an acre of trees have already been cleared. But Lucas Design and Construction said all the works that have been carried out have been lawful and had informed the Forestry Commission, the Environment Agency and the Royal Borough ahead of the works.
Anne Yarwood, chairwoman of the Ascot and Sunnings Community Environment Network, added: “The environment needs to be looked after and the power of developers needs to be challenged.
“Residents are very concerned about building big mansions in the area and the felling of trees. It seems like the residents of Ascot are waking up and caring about their woodland.”
The inquiry is due to finish tomorrow (Friday) at the Desborough Suite at Maidenhead Town Hall, before Mr Griffiths makes a decision on whether to allow planning permission.