PLANS to build up to 516 homes on land adjacent to Askham Bog have been refused.

City of York Council’s planning committee took just over an hour to turn the proposals down today (Thursday) - saying it had concerns about the impact on the bog as well as transport, health services and schools in the area.

And the news was met with delight and relief from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust staff - the organisation that runs the bog.

Louise Wilkinson, campaigns manager at the trust, said: “It’s fantastic news, we’re absolutely delighted. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has fought this application for years and more than 7,000 people from York and around have stood with us.

“We couldn’t be happier with this outcome both for the wildlife at the bog and for the people who have supported us.

“It means a lot to all of us - we really care about the bog.

“It’s impossible to know the bog and not love it.”

Sir David Attenborough spoke out against plans to build on land off Moor Lane, York, near the bog in January and more than 7,600 people objected to the plans.

But Gary Halman, speaking on behalf of developer Barwood Land at the meeting, said York has a “housing crisis” with a need for more affordable housing.

He added: “I recognise the concerns about the bog. We clearly have a difference of opinion on the impact on the bog.

“Our technical studies have been peer reviewed and are robust. We dispute that there’s any risk to the bog. There’s no prospect of the bog drying out.”

He claimed there may be benefits to biodiversity and protecting the run off of nitrates into the bog.

But Prof Alastair Fitter, professor of ecology at the University of York, said the site is “exceptional” and added: “It’s one of the gems of the UK wildlife scene. It’s survived for 15,000 years - I would urge you not to take any risks with it.”

And Philip Crowe from Treemendous York said the site could instead be the city’s “first major contribution to the Northern Forest project”.

A report by planning officers said the housing scheme would be an inappropriate development in the Green Belt, have an adverse impact on the bog, put extra demand on school places and lead to more traffic in the area.

Cllr Paul Doughty said he had “never seen as many concerns in one planning application as this”.

Cllr Andy D’Agorne said: “It could be akin to saying we have to demolish the Minster to build housing. It’s that important to our biodiversity heritage.

“It’s 15,000 years in the making - to lose it would be catastrophic for biodiversity.”

Cllr Nigel Ayre added: “There’s so many reasons for this to be refused.”

The application was unanimously refused.