THE Earl of Radnor has refused to be interviewed about controversial plans to build 100 homes on green fields near Salisbury Cathedral.

The Earl, who owns half the plot being considered for housing, declined to answer questions about his plans for the meadows off Britford Lane, Harnham.

The other half of the land is owned by registered charity St Nicholas Hospital. Its chairman of trustees, Chris Dragonetti, gave an interview to the Journal earlier this year.

The Earl’s silence comes as campaigners accuse both landowners of “circumventing the democratic process” by consulting on plans before the council has decided whether the site is suitable for housing.

Agents working for the Earl’s Longford Estate have invited people living in the Britford Lane area to attend individual interviews about the plans, before a formal planning application is submitted.

But Save the Meadows campaigners say this move is a “tokenistic exercise in public engagement”.

In a letter to landowners, a spokesman for the campaign wrote: “If you were genuine about engaging with the public and listening to what the community wants, you would be awaiting the outcome of the council’s current review of additional housing sites.

“That would be the democratic route. Clearly you are gambling on securing planning permission in this transitory period.”

One objector, Dean Speer, wrote in a letter to the Journal: “In the year of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, which is also the 800th anniversary of the founding of St Nicholas Hospital, we seem to still be in the age of the rich and powerful seeking to ride roughshod over the wishes of the peasantry.”

Alasdair Jones-Perrott, land agent for Longford Estate, said involving the community was “of great importance” to “provide a legacy for the local area”.

He said: “Wiltshire Council needs to find space for 5,000 new homes, 600 of which have been allocated to Salisbury.

“There are very few sites in the city that can accommodate these new houses and certainly none in a more sustainable or deliverable position.”

And he said: “We have promoted the site through the SHLAA and we will continue to progress the design now that we have undertaken our technical studies.

“The government encourages applicants to ‘front load’ the application process by carrying out as much technical work prior to the submission and this, together with progressing the design to a stage where we are ready to submit, takes considerable time.”

A public exhibition of the plans is expected to take place in November.