VILLAGERS in Houghton and Wyton have won their two-year legal battle against a development that would have seen their villages almost merged with St Ives.

A High Court judge blocked plans to use the majority of the green gap between the villages and the town for housing under Huntingdonshire District Council's St Ives West Urban Design Framework.

The framework would have allowed parcels of land between Houghton and St Ives to be used for further development, including part of the former St Ives Golf Course (200 homes), the former Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) land (210 homes) and Houghton Grange (90 homes).

Objectors claimed that, on top of the developments at Slepe Meadow and Green Acres, between 700 and 750 would be added along the Houghton Road corridor, leaving just one parcel of agricultural land separating town from village.

Houghton and Wyton Parish Council claimed the framework unlawfully allocated green field land and began a legal challenge.

Last Thursday, they won a victory that will halt a Barrett Homes' scheme - to be called the Links - to build on the remaining part of the golf course.

However, HDC may appeal the decision.

The legal battle has been a united front by the villagers, who last April raised £19,000 to fund its challenge, which started when Mrs Justice Thirlwall QC granted permission for a judicial review of the framework.

On Thursday, Deputy Judge Charles George QC found in favour of Houghton and Wyton Parish Council on one of its two grounds of challenge - that HDC had acted ultra vires in adopting the framework, adding that the document needed the proper backing of a consultation, appraisal and inspection.

"The document ought never have been published in that form," the judge said.

Helen Boothman, a key member of action group Stop Houghton East Development, told The Hunts Post: "The villagers are euphoric. It was a shame that it had to go all the way to the High Court.

"Two judges have agreed with us that Huntingdonshire District Council was not following set processes.

"It means that we can wipe the slate clean and work together with HDC to find sensible solutions. We want lessons to be learned from this. We want to see changes to stop this happening again."

HDC managing director Malcolm Sharp said the council was considering an appeal.

"Obviously it is disappointing that, on a complex point of procedural law, our efforts to provide positive planning guidance for the established growth area to the west of St Ives have been undermined," he said.

"However, we are considering an appeal as we are of the view that the judgement undermines our ability to plan effectively and positively for our community - and has potentially wide-ranging implications for other authorities."

Judge George ordered HDC to pay £15,000 to the parish council to cover court costs.