CONTROVERSIAL plans to build more than 30 new homes on an allotment site in Whitchurch have been rejected by borough councillors.

The outline planning application for 34 new homes on the Caesars Way allotment site was rejected by councillors on Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s development control committee.

Plans for the new homes were first submitted in August 2013 by the Hospital of St Cross, which owns the site. If approved, the allotments would have been moved to a new site nearby.

However, councillors on the committee rejected the application after hearing from objectors including David George, of Whitchurch Town Council, who spoke as the chairman of the Whitchurch neighbourhood plan steering committee.

He said that the planning application could potentially undermine the future Neighbourhood Plan.

Allotment holder Alan Bromley, of Brooks Close, in Whitchurch, spoke of his delight after councillors voted to reject the application. However, the 67-year-old father-of-two fears the developer will appeal the decision.

He told The Gazette: “I am happy with it (the decision) so far but I think it will go to appeal. The majority (of allotment holders) are against the new allotments because the ground they anticipate us going to is so poor.”

When discussing the town council’s Neighbourhood Plan, town councillor Mr George told the meeting: “We have been working on it for a year. We have had 30 formal meetings and eight public consultations. We have had detailed talks with the developers and identified sites for the potential of up to 1,000 (homes) so we have real options.

“We have a strong community working on this plan, but if we get undermined by planning applications, we are going to lose interest and the support of the community.”

And councillors on the development control committee agreed – labelling the planning application premature after it was submitted before the completion of the Neighbourhood Plan.

Cllr Diane Taylor, borough councillor for Oakley, told the meeting: “I am deeply concerned about this application. I think it is premature.

“I am not prepared to roll over on this one. It really means a lot to us and the communities preparing Neighbourhood Plans. It means a lot to us in Basingstoke that we allow communities to make decisions for themselves.”

Cllr David Potter, ward member for Popley East, added: “If we are going to have any integrity we have got to try and give support to groups like this.

“If we are encouraging people to do that (neighbourhood planning), we have got to encourage and sustain them in their efforts.”