Next year, the Reverend Gordon Dey will retire, and he has vowed to spend his spare time sitting in a tree in Tong Valley in protest at the potential development he fears could destroy the community which has been his home for 25 years.

Mr Dey, who leads services at St Christopher’s Church, Holme Wood, is forthright in his views about the housing proposals for the Green Belt land stretching between the estate and the historic areas of Tong and Fulneck villages.

Proposals to build on the area, bounded by Black Carr Woods, which is ancient woodland, were first raised two years ago as one of four options in the Local Development Framework (LDF).

The LDF is a folder of local development documents replacing the Unitary Development Plan, outlining how planning will be managed in the area.

In the document, Bradford Council has to stipulate its options for spatial strategy to accommodate up to 50,000 homes by 2026. Public consultations have taken place and a Council spokesman says comments and issues raised by the public have been considered.

The Council says it is committed to the regeneration of Holme Wood and intends to publish the preferred option later this year, but Mr Dey and his fellow campaigners in the Tong and Fulneck Valley Association – the group set up to ‘Save Tong Valley’ – are adamant Tong Valley won’t be an option.

A public meeting tonight, organised by the association, aims to raise awareness of the options. The group is also planning a walk around the area under potential threat.

“There is no question about the message I want to get across. I will be living in a tree down the Valley and I will prevent it from happening. I am implacably against it,” says Mr Dey.

He says while it isn’t known what the final plan will be, protesters know two of the four options include ‘very substantial building in the Tong Valley’.

“No figures have been given, but at one point 7,000 houses was talked about,” he says. “It is almost certainly not going to be the case now, but any number is going to lead to the elimination of Green Belt.

“Even if it is 1,000 houses, it would cause the destruction of a substantial amount of Green Belt – and the land between here and Tong Valley is Green Belt.”

Mr Dey explains that two patches of land on the edge of Holme Wood, earmarked for development in the Unitary Development Plan, have already encroached into greenfield sites.

He says there is enough surplus land on the estate to accommodate 1,000 houses, and believes it is an option residents would support. “We need more housing, there is no issue about that. People understand there’s housing to be built, but I look at Holme Wood and the number of green spaces where more housing is possible.

“There has been some demolition of housing that can be re-built and added into the mix, so there are options.”

Mr Dey, who is also vicar of St James’s Church, Tong, is also eager to preserve what he regards as the unique quality of historic Tong village and Fulneck.

He says: “They are important historical communities with a heritage and history that is for everybody’s benefit.”

Additional congestion that development could bring is another concern. “In addition to the protection of communities and healthy development of them, we have the congestion problem. Adding more houses would increase the congestion in Tong Street, Wakefield Road and Tong village,” says Mr Dey.

Tong village resident John Finnigan, secretary of the Tong and Fulneck Valley Association, says: “We were devastated when we first heard about Bradford’s possible housing plans for the Green Belt.

“We all know that there is a pressing need for more and better housing in the city, but we are determined that Bradford should be persuaded to find ways of achieving this without destroying this unique, historic landscape.

“At the same time we want Bradford to follow the lead set by the West Leeds Country Parkway and take positive steps to help people get the most out of this great area of country walks stretching between and linking the two cities.”

Campaigners are fighting on with a further public meeting tonight at the Boys’ Brigade Hall in Fulneck village at 7.30pm. The walk around the area under potential threat is on Saturday, March 13, when participants will meet at Tong village hall at 10am.