Page last updated at 19:47 GMT, Wednesday, 19 May 2010 20:47 UK

Peter Gabriel attacks Woolley Valley farm plans

Village of Woolley
The Woolley Valley lies just outside the city of Bath

Pop star Peter Gabriel has added his voice to a campaign to stop an agricultural development at a beauty spot near Bath.

The singer's first solo single Solsbury Hill was inspired by the Woolley Valley area, north of the city.

The area has been the subject of a bitter planning battle, as a developer seeks to build mobile chicken units and an alpaca farm on the land.

The firm, Golden Valley Paddocks, says it is helping preserve the greenbelt.

Bath and North-East Somerset Council (Banes) has ordered the firm to stop work on the land. Already a drainage ditch has been dug, a track expanded and stock sheds and other buildings erected.

Golden Valley Paddocks has applied for retrospective planning permission for the work, but had the applications refused.

Intensive agriculture

Mr Gabriel, who raised a family in the valley and still lives nearby, said: "To see this wilful violation of planning laws and destruction of a beautiful part of the valley is very upsetting."

It's agriculture that preserves the area of outstanding natural beauty it's agriculture that preserves the greenbelt.
Marc Willis, landowner's agent

He was speaking as campaigners from the Save Woolley Valley group demonstrated outside Bath's Guildhall.

The group - which has formed a limited company to fight the planning proposals - says Banes has dragged its feet in enforcing planning law.

The authority's injunction against the work expires on Thursday, but Golden Valley Paddocks said it would not press on with its plans until the issue was settled.

Its agent, Marc Willis, told the BBC: "We've done nothing wrong.

"We are putting this land back back into productive agricultural use. It's agriculture that preserves the area of outstanding natural beauty, it's agriculture that preserves the greenbelt."

The firm, which is registered in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, asserts that it does not need planning permission for the mobile structures it has brought to the site, and it says it is working with Banes to settle other planning matters.

Mr Gabriel and the campaigners say the valley is inappropriate for the intensive agriculture being planned.

The area was previously been an organic farm.

The cause has also attracted the support of local celebrities Jonathan Dimbleby, Bel Mooney and Jeremy Guscott.

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