PLANNERS and councilors are 'hearing but not listening' to residents and may have already made up their mind to release areas for housing, according to campaigners trying to save one of the reserve sites from development.

Ian Morton, resident and spokesman for the ‘Hands Off Gomm Valley’ campaign, believes building on empty business and industrial sites should take priority over the rural, undeveloped spot.

He said he is worried last week’s meeting over releasing five reserve sites to meet the district’s five-year housing supply numbers could just be ‘a PR exercise’.

And since launching the campaign - featured in the BFP - Mr Morton says Wycombe District Council has not addressed issues around wildlife habitats he claims would be destroyed if any building went ahead.

He said: "Residents are not convinced that Wycombe District Council have not already made up their minds. They may be hearing us but they are certainly not listening to us and they are showing no signs of a change in direction. Is this just a PR exercise?

"In fact the leading Councillors seem to be giving the planners’ free reign to dictate to us what areas should be developed in the District. Residents are rightly asking who is actually running our local Council?"

"What I found must disturbing about the meeting on Thursday was the lack of awareness with regards to the environmental damage that building on Gomm Valley would cause. This was barely mentioned and seems to be very low on this Council's list of priorities."

Mr Morton has also criticised WDC for not following its own advice, after a 2009 council study acknowledged the impact housing would have on wildlife habitats in the valley.

And he is urging planners to consider building on empty business and industrial areas first to meet the five-year housing supply.

WDC insists releasing the sites is the only way to retain control as developers would look to build on Gomm Valley anyway.

And planners say the council would be powerless to stop them if it cannot show it is adequately meeting its housing need, which has been revised upwards to between 500 and 700 homes per year.

The two meetings, with another scheduled for next week, come ahead of a WDC Cabinet discussion and a final decision in October.