Campaigners are celebrating an inspector’s decision not to allow 18 houses to be built near a long-distance footpath.

The Open Spaces Society (OSS) had backed Medway Council, in Kent, in opposing the construction of 18 extra dwellings on open land in a conservation area at Gillingham Green.

Following a public inquiry, the inspector Ava Wood ruled dismissed the appeal by Taylor Woodrow Developments who had wanted to build on land crossed by the Saxon Shore Way, a long-distance path.

Ms Wood said: “This swathe of open ground provides relief from the intensity of development in the locality.”

Pat Wilson, local representative of the OSS, said: “This is a brilliant New Year present for all Gillingham and Medway residents who enjoy the land near Gillingham Strand and the many people who walk the Saxon Shore Way.

“The area is largely defined by the chain of open spaces that connect and contribute to the setting of the prominent, Grade II listed, ancient church and to the church grounds.

“‘We are grateful to councillors who stuck to their guns over so many years to protect this oasis, and to the Medway Countryside Forum who supported them at the public inquiry.”