TV detective actor John Nettles has accused the Prime Minister of mugging the nation’s heritage over plans to build an eco-town near his Warwickshire country home.
The 64-year-old lives near Stratford-upon-Avon in a picturesque rural setting similar to the fictional backdrop for Midsomer Murders, in which he plays Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby.
The former Bergerac star said he was appalled by Gordon Brown’s proposals for a carbon neutral development for 20,000 residents at Long Marston, near Stratford.
Nettles, who denied being a "narrow-minded" Nimby, said the new town would be a "Milton Keynes Mark II."
The site is one of 15 locations short-listed by the Government for the first new towns to be built in England since the 1960s. The controversial policy was Mr Brown’s first major announcement when he launched his campaign to succeed Tony Blair.
Nettles has close ties to the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford and said the eco proposals would wreck the home of Shakespeare, choking the town with traffic and turning rural communities into rat-runs.
"The Government likes to label people like me as Nimbys. It suits them to paint a picture of angry, narrow-minded locals brandishing pitchforks and motivated purely by self-interest," he said.
"But the truth is rather more prosaic. We passionately believe in protecting England’s heritage for succeeding generations. It’s not Nimbyism – it’s realism.
"We know the area, we love it, and we know what it needs and what it can sustain. We will do whatever it takes to ensure that the London-based decision-makers recognise their responsibility towards England’s cultural heritage."
Nettles, who has lived near Stratford for 16 years, is the second celebrity to back BARD (Better Accessible and Responsible Development), a local residents’ protest group, in its fight against the Government.
Last month, Dame Judi Dench, who started her acting career with the RSC at Stratford in 1961, said the eco-town would have a devastating impact on the Bard’s home, which she described as a "jewel in the crown of the nation’s heritage."
Nettles also warned that rural communities would be "forever and irreversibly spoilt" if the Long Marston development went ahead.
He said: "What really perplexes me is why the Government thinks Stratford district needs all these new houses, and where it thinks all the new town’s residents are going to work.
"The new town can never be self-sustaining, so commuting by car will be the norm, totally negating the zero-carbon aim.
"Stratford is not an area in need of regeneration. Our local schools are full, our roads are choked at rush hour, the fields are prone to flooding and convenient public transport is non-existent.
"I cannot stand silently by, watching our much cherished town suffocate under an influx of tens of thousands of new residents, commuting through Stratford and its villages to their workplaces in Coventry and Birmingham, leaving not so much an ‘eco’ but a ‘ghost town’ behind.