Rural campaigners have condemned proposals to build 500 homes on greenbelt land and allotments by the Leatherhead Bypass.

Mole Valley District Council revealed today that Barratt Homes is the preferred developer for the 9.5-acre Barnett Wood Lane Allotment site which it owns, plus the 22.7-acre adjacent site owned by Merton College, Oxford.

Andy Smith, Surrey branch director of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said: "We are extremely disappointed by Mole Valley Council's determination to dispose of a vital community asset and to allow building on adjacent greenbelt fields.”

Barnatt Homes must still get most of the college land taken out of the greenbelt as part of a boundary review and go through the planning process.

Mr Smith said the council had failed to think strategically about the role of the countryside and greenbelt, adding: “It also shows a woeful disregard for the needs of local people.

"Sacrificing these green spaces will not meet local needs - it is being done for the sake of money and 'economic growth' but at the expense of the environment and the community.

Your Local Guardian:

"The council claims to have the long term interests of the local community at heart, but today's announcement does not inspire confidence!”

He said CPRE hoped that together with local action groups enough opposition could be mounted to make the council think again.

The council would receive £21m if the deal goes ahead but it is not yet known how much Merton College is set to earn. Barnatt Homes have also pledged £550,000 toward the cost of relocating the allotments.

Allotment holders were ‘very disappointed’ with the council's decision to enter a development agreement but welcomed the fact that it is looking at alternative relocation sites.

The allotments society said: “It is regrettable but not unexpected. As we have said from the start this is all about money.

Your Local Guardian:

“We are very pleased that Mole Valley district councillors and their officials have recognised the concerns of the allotment holders in regard to the proposed relocation site and have now tabled alternative proposals.

“We now have to take time to consider these proposals and investigate both replacement sites. It would seem that there may well still be a question of air and noise pollution on one of them.”

If the relocation sites are found to be suitable then the Leatherhead Poors Allotments Society committee look forward to working closely with the council.

At a press briefing in Dorking, the council's strategic director Nick Gray said: “What we have started to think about is could we not have one relocation site but perhaps two.

“We would put some on the Ashtead side of the motorway and some on the Leatherhead side.”

He said: “Our ambition would be that for the vast majority of people we provide greatly improved allotments and for the majority of them allotments which are closer to their current address.”

Your Local Guardian:

On Friday campaigners made a last-minute bid to get threatened allotments registered as a 'community asset' to prevent development.

Under the Localism Act community groups can nominate assets in order to get the right to bid for land if it goes on sale.

When asked about the request, Mr Gray said: “If members of the community wish to purchase the site they will be need to be able to come up with £21m.”