Protesters rallied against plans to build an A350 link, that a Wiltshire MP said would result in the desecration of the countryside.

Over 150 people gathered at Riverside Drive, Chippenham on Saturday with placards and banners to say no to the £75m distributor road bid and the 7,500 houses it will bring.

The group was joined by North Wiltshire MP James Gray, who said there was a battle ahead for campaigners.

He told the crowd: “You’ll be certain of my support in every possible way to try and stop this desecration of the countryside.”

Plans to build a distributor road linking the A350 at the north and south ends of the town were approved by the government last year.

Wiltshire and Chippenham town councillor Ashley O’Neill said he was supporting the people of Bremhill whose lives would be impacted by the proposal.

“If it does go ahead it would see the destruction of the countryside on a scale and at a pace that we have not seen in Wiltshire before,” he added.

“People in the Chippenham and Calne community areas will have to suffer more traffic and extra air pollution, as well as losing valuable green spaces which have become ever more important due to Covid-19 and our changing lifestyles.

“There seems to be very little support locally for 7,500 additional houses in Chippenham and this cannot be allowed to happen.

“The historic villages around Chippenham will be surrounded by the endless building of homes in the open countryside, something that I’m sure we will look back on with great sadness in the years to come.”

Bremhill parish council is objecting to the development as it goes against its neighbourhood plan which states that no development should take place north of the Chippenham to Calne cycle path.

Bremhil parish councillor, Ian James said: “There’s a serious threat to wildlife along the Marden valley. We also consider that there are too many houses to be built on this land and the road is not necessary now because of Covid.”

Cllr James added that with fewer commuting to work because of the pandemic Chippenham will not become a strategic town.

“What we should be doing is providing for smaller towns so that key workers can work out in the community and will not have to travel large distances.”

Speaking on the effect the development would have on the countryside, Steve Perry, chairman of Campaign Against Urban Sprawl to the East (of Chippenham) said that Wiltshire Council is not taking notice of the declared climate emergency.

He said: “Wiltshire Council hasn’t altered its plans for the future to accord with the climate emergency they’ve declared.

“The stated reason for doing that is we’ve got Junction 17 of the M4 handy and we’ve got a mainline railway station handy both of which are a cause of out-commuting and not people living in Chippenham and developing as a nuclear town where people live and work in the town.”

Leader of the council, Philip Whitehead said: “It was unfortunate that the public consultation planned for spring this year had to be delayed because of COVID-19. Local people will now be able to see and comment on the road route options in January when the consultation launches. Webpages explaining more about the project will go live before Christmas.

“Any new road will only be built if planning is granted for development to proceed. The £75 million government funding will be available to contribute towards this cost.

“Our bid for funding identified the opportunity to provide 7,500 homes at Chippenham. The level of growth and the number of new homes required to meet housing need at Chippenham is considered through the separate Wiltshire Local Plan review process and people will be able to comment on these proposals early in the new year.”