PLANS to build a new business park in Little Marlow have sparked an angry response from a group determined to protect the area for future generations.

A development at Westhorpe Park has been put forward as part of Wycombe District Council’s Local Plan, which is looking for ways to build up to 700 new homes and business over the next 15 years.

But the idea has attracted huge opposition from groups in favour of creating a country park in Little Marlow, a council-backed scheme which has been in the pipeline for decades.

And action group Little Marlow Lakes Country Park Community Partnership has launched a strong riposte to councillors, insisting any development would undermine the promise to create the beauty spot.

In its response, chairman Mike Overall says on behalf of the Partnership: "We are totally opposed to business development in this area designated as part of the Little Marlow Lakes Country Park.

"A business park development (or housing) at Westhorpe would be incompatible with WDC’s long standing policies and strategy that this area should not only be part of the Country Park, but should be retained as open parkland and ‘provide a quality landscape setting for the entrance to the Country Park and Westhorpe House’.

"WDC and the County Council have always stressed that development of the Country Park would be long term project.

"After more than a decade of only relatively small scale developments of infrastructure and wildlife habitats, the Country Park concept is on the threshold of several more significant developments, including the new athletics track and associated country park facilities, which WDC has described as ‘kick starting’ the Country Park.

"To designate this area for development would undermine the key principles and long term masterplan set out for the Country Park by the two sponsoring councils."

The Community Partnership was formed in 2003 to promote the delivery of the country park after WDC made a long-term pledge to create the protected area of country park around Westhorpe.

The 450-acre site between the A404 and Spade Oak, which includes the Little Marlow Gravel Pits and the Thames Water sewage treatment works, is set to include a network of footpaths, open green space, wildlife reserves and a series of ponds and lakes.

With Marlow surrounded by a protected Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty to the north, WDC is exploring options to build on green belt land in the south of district, including Little Marlow and the Wye Valley.

Planners believe that with little room for new hosuing in the town, Marlow and surrounding areas could become a hub for new bsuinesses and have suggested Westhorpe as a possible site for a new business park.

Residents were also opposed to the £2m council-built athletics track in Little Marlow, which is nearly complete, and the partnership has wartned that any further building project would represent "a major undermining of public faith" in the protection of the green belt.

Marlow Town Council has also voiced its objection to a new development in Little Marlow. Mayor Suzanne Brown said at this week’s annual town meeting that members "do not support the building on green belt land near the A404".

The country park partnership is also worried about any development narrowing the gap between Marlow and Little Marlow, which they say should remain as two distinct areas.

WDC claims it has a responsibility to look at all options when considering the Local Plan.

Spokesman Sue Robinson said: "We will consider carefully the comments from LMLCPCP as part of the wide range of comments we have had on the plan.

"The Westhorpe area has come out as a site which could be a home for new businesses. To date the country park concept has remained an unfulfilled dream due to lack of funding.

"However one of the discussion points during the local plan consultation was, whether, if delivered well, development of part of this area could help to unlock the delivery of the country park vision by generating the funds needed to enhance the landscape.

"LMLCPCP are involved in helping us put in new footpaths and cycleways which further enhance the area around the new running track at Westhorpe. We will continue to work with them and other key groups, as we take forward the work on the Local Plan in the coming months."