RESIDENTS in the UK's smallest town are locked in a David and Goliath battle with a council who are "destroying" the area.
Locals in the historic town of Fordwich, Kent, are desperate to save their countryside from being blighted by a new bypass.
The picturesque landscape is set to be steamrolled if Canterbury City Council's plans for a controversial ring road go ahead.
The tight-knit community – made up of just 180 homes and 330 residents – have been left furious by the proposals.
Fordwich became self-governing in the 11th Century and was granted a Merchant Guild Charter by King Henry II in 1184.
It was awarded to reflect the importance of the town's port, which served boats on their way upriver to Canterbury.
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The scenic and small area is the smallest by population in the UK with a town council.
Residents are now worried that the town's quaint reputation will be ruined if plans to build the new bypass are given the green light.
Council bosses have mapped out the relief road to go through Fordwich's surrounding countryside.
The plans for the bypass, which appeared in the local authorities draft Local Plan, have been slammed by locals.
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They fear the ring road will "destroy" its beloved conservation area and the rural outlook, as well as posing a threat to local wildlife.
Town mayor Adrian McCarthy echoed his constituents' complaints, describing the plans as "utterly misconceived and flawed with no sound justification".
He told KentOnline: "The draft Local Plan does not positively plan for Fordwich at all.
"The proposed bypass's currently preferred route has not been adequately assessed and would destroy a conservation area, ancient woodland and important Kentish landscape features.
"It will also destroy sites of likely high archaeological importance.
"Instead we would urge the city council to address the harm done to the historic town by the rat-run unsuitable for the thousands of cars using our roads daily, regularly damaging the Grade II-listed bridge and listed houses.
"This can be achieved without the proposed bypass, which is not intended to relieve Fordwich in any event."
The council's draft Local Plan also outlined proposals to build 13,000 homes and convert Canterbury into five zones that motorists would be banned from driving between.
Their housing target requires traffic solutions to mitigate its impact – one of which includes building a bypass on the outskirts of Fordwich.
Despite the minute population, locals have proved it is quality, not quantity that prevails.
Residents are fighting the proposal with the expert help of local Greg Jones, a King's Counsel who specialises in planning law.
He has written a 185-page document challenging the arguments put forward in favour of the housing target.
Jones told council bosses they were "mistaken" in thinking that it outweighs the impact of the bypass scheme.
However, city council leader Ben Fitter-Harding claims it will favour the economy while drivers will enjoy shorter journey times.
Acknowledging the proposed route would wreak havoc on the landscape, he said it was a "balancing act" as Canterbury would also benefit from the new bypass.
Fitter-Harding said: "No one could argue there will be no effect, but we will be mitigating that as much as possible and are consulting with Natural England.
"We have already spoken to the planning inspector, who says our draft Local Plan is going in the right direction."
CLLR Ben Fitter-Harding, leader of Canterbury City Council and the Conservative Group, said plans for a new bypass would ease congestion within Fordwich and prevent Canterbury from having to be split into zones.
He said: "I am a strong advocate of an Eastern Bypass for Canterbury.
"Drivers are fed up with the congestion in the city, and Fordwich is fed up with vehicles trying to use its tiny roads.
"People are smart, given the option of driving via a new road they're going to use it and that should mean any sort of zoning for Canterbury can be ruled out.
"Fordwich is, however, a very beautiful and historic town in our district surrounded by countryside and it needs to be protected.
"The route for the Eastern Bypass has not been finalised yet and I'm supporting Fordwich Town Council and our city councillors for the area, Cllr Harvey-Quirke and Cllr Glover, to ensure that both the city council and the county council hear our concerns loud and clear."
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Former cabinet minister and North East Somerset MP Jacob Rees-Mogg branded the proposals to introduce traffic zones as "crazy."
"The Tory party ought to be on the side of the motorist," he wrote in a tweet.
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