A CONTENTIOUS plan to build stables in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was thrown out after a poetic plea by a councillor last night.

Members of Wycombe District Council’s Planning Committee were left momentarily speechless by Cllr Roger Metcalf’s impassioned speech to reject the stables and manege mooted for Bottom Hill in Hambleden.

He appealed to members’ hearts to protect the “small jewel of England” from what resident Tom Armstrong described as an “alien, intrusive and inappropriate” development of the Green Belt and Chilterns AONB.

The plan was narrowly rejected by members, who believed it would change the nature and character of the protected land.

Cllr Hugh McCarthy believed the proposed five looseboxes, tack room, manege, store and feed room was a “step too far”.

He compared it to the equestrian centre that was mooted for Valentine Farm, Skirmett, which the council threw out on two occasions following a campaign involving Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman and rugby commentator Nigel Starmer Smith.

Cllr McCarthy told Wednesday's meeting: “This application has a remarkable parallel with Skirmett, which the planning inspector felt was unacceptable.

“I think this is also a step too far – it will have an impact on the enjoyment of the land by residents and it will change the environment.

“It would have to be dug into the hillside and significantly change the natural contours. I have a manege in the field behind where I live and they change the view, I can assure you.”

Jayne Wunderlich, speaking on behalf of the applicants, had pointed out the stables would be used to house the ‘treasured horses’ which were “part of the family” and it would never become a commercial venture.

But Cllr McCarthy added: “I grew up indirectly with horses and know how attached people get to them but I don’t think that is a planning reason to overrule planning guidelines in the AONB.”

Objectors to the stables included Hambleden Parish Council, the Chilterns Conservation Board and the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust.

Wycombe District Council received 81 letters against the proposals.