OPPONENTS do not want them - but now hundreds of new homes have been given the green light on the edge of Basingstoke after a Government minister over-ruled borough councillors.
Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles, acting on advice from a planning inspector, announced last Wednesday that David Wilson Homes Southern's proposal for 450 homes on Kiln Farm between Sherborne St John and Popley - which was once described as “the most objected to application in the history of Basingstoke” - can go ahead.
Mr Pickles granted outline planning permission - approval of the masterplan - for 450 homes on the 21-hectare site, and planning permission for the first 200 homes.
The controversial decision follows a planning inquiry in May this year after the developer lodged an appeal against Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council planning committee's decision to refuse both applications in 2012.
In a 96-page report, published four months after the week-long inquiry in May, planning inspector Ken Barton recommended to the Secretary for State that both applications are granted and justified the decision by saying:
- The impact on the countryside would be “slight”
- Traffic troubles would not be “severe”
- There would be “no adverse impact” to the protected great crested newt
- Basingstoke has a “serious and significant” shortfall of houses
- The land has been earmarked for housing since 2010
Welcoming the decision, David Wilson Homes planning director Giuseppe Zanre said: “We fully welcome the right decision reached by both the appeal inspector and the Secretary of State, who has allowed these two planning applications.
“This development is one which will help the council to address its immediate and very significant shortfall in housing supply, and subsequent housing need of the borough.”
As well as 450 homes, the proposal includes a primary school, community centre, and open space.
When the plans were first revealed at the end of January 2012, they attracted fierce criticism from residents of Popley, who argued that the area had been swamped by new development in the past 10 years, and people in neighbouring Sherborne St John, who said their village would become a suburb of the town.
The two applications resulted in more than 530 letters of objection, and a petition with hundreds of signatures was submitted, while only three letters of support were received.
Councillor Horace Mitchell, chairman of the borough's 14-strong development control committee, said the strength of feeling against the plan was a reason why the council refused it.
“The members were influenced by local opinion and had good reasons why that application should not go forward,” he said. “It is disappointing that a decision made locally has been overruled nationally.”
But Conservative Sherborne St John ward councillor John Leek said Mr Pickles' ruling was “inevitable”.
“All I can say is that I am very sorry for the residents because they fought gallantly,” said Cllr Leek. “But this Coalition Government is hell-bent on covering the countryside in houses so it was inevitable.”
Planning consultant Edward Dawson, who represented Sherborne St John Parish Council at the inquiry, said the council will explore whether to appeal the decision to the High Court.
He added: “I am shocked at disappointed, both with the inspector and the Secretary of State. However, I don't feel we could have done much more. It took lots of work that seems to have come to nothing really.”
Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council are also investigating whether to appeal. Mike Townsend, planning and development manager said: "We are reviewing the decision and considering the implications."
Campaigners in Popley also expressed anger and disappointment at the decision.
“I don't know whether it was tears of sadness, or tears of anger I had when reading the decision,” said Labour Popley borough and county councillor Jane Frankum.
“Popley has been very generous - they have welcomed Merton Rise, Marnel Park, and all the regeneration - but there is a limit and we feel the limit has been reached.
Her borough Labour colleague, Popley East's Cllr David Potter, added that he was “disappointed and dismayed”.