CAMPAIGNERS against the development of a rural valley gathered for a guided walk this weekend to show residents and decision makers what they are at risk of losing.

Led by organiser Graham Andrews, around 70 walkers gathered in Penn for the route through Gomm Valley and Ashwells, which features on Wycombe District Council’s reserve housing site list.

Councillors David Shakespeare, Paula Lee and Katrina Wood joined the tour, designed to highlight the natural beauty and important diversity of the area which could soon be released for development.

They were joined by supporters from Penn and Tylers Green residents society.

Pimms Grove resident Mr Andrews said: "Only when you see the valley from top to bottom will you see how essential it is for keeping this piece of open countryside alongside the town.

"Obviously it is one of the sites down to be released by the council but we want them to put it on the back burner rather than one of the first areas to be built on.

"We feel not enough people know what the area is or what they are looking at, and we can’t risk turning into a concrete car park and losing it forever.

"The whole intention originally was to invite local councillors (on the planning committee) as there aren’t many that come from the area.

"They are the ones who will vote on concreting over the area. I’m disappointed none have agreed to come and to me that says a lot."

As well as containing a Site of Special Scientific Interest, campaigners say Gomm Valley harbours vital wildlife habitats and ecological features which need to be protected.

The council revealed this month it may be forced to release some reserve housing sites - earmarked for possible development since the 1950s - to meet growing government demands over housing numbers.

With a time-consuming process looming to agree a long term Local Plan, including the possibility of neighbouring boroughs taking some of the housing load, WDC must in the meantime show it can meet its rolling five-year housing supply.

And planning officers say this means the council may be forced to release five key reserve sites, including Slate Meadow, Abbey Barn and Gomm Valley.

Campaigners looking to save the area east of High Wycombe say it should be the last resort, claiming Saunderton, Stokenchurch and areas to the west should bear some of the brunt.

But with much of the district being covered by protected Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and green belt, WDC says it needs short term sites to avoid losing control to developers’ planning appeals.

A longer term Local Plan, consulted on earlier this year, will look at large-scale future expansions, including the possibility of a new settlement near Princes Risborough.

WDC's Cabinet is due to discuss the matter in October.