A PLANNING inquiry has begun into a hugely contentious scheme to build 450 homes on the edge of Basingstoke.
Borough councillors last year threw out two separate proposals by David Wilson Homes Southern for 450 homes and 200 homes to be built on the land north of Marnel Park, in Popley.
The inquiry, which started on Tuesday, is looking into appeals brought by the developers against both refusals. The plan for 200 homes could form the first phase of the plan for 450 homes but the two appeals are not dependent on each other and either scheme could be implemented independently.
The planning committee of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council last year voted to reject both plans against the advice of planning officers but to the great relief of villagers in Sherborne St John and residents in Popley.
At the start of the inquiry, which is expected to last until the end of next week, Government inspector Ken Barton heard representations from the borough council, Sherborne St John Parish Council and David Wilson Homes Southern.
Michael Bedford, counsel for the borough council, said it accepted allowing the appeals would “contribute housing and affordable housing to help meet unmet housing needs.”
However, he said this did not outweigh considerations such as “the safeguarding of the countryside because of its intrinsic beauty, the character of the landscape, and the role of the appeal site in maintaining the separate identities of Sherborne St John and Basingstoke.”
Edward Dawson, planning adviser to Sherborne St John Parish Council, said: “For residents of Sherborne St John, the potential impact of the proposals is alarming. The scale of development proposed would have an overwhelming effect. It would potentially swamp the village and thereby corrode its intrinsic character.”
The plan for the 450-home development, which attracted hundreds of objections, also includes proposals to build a new community centre, primary school and open space, sports and recreational facilities.
Speaking for the developer, Richard Phillips QC told the inspector: “We contend there are significant benefits in allowing both appeals and that these benefits in relation to meeting the need for market and affordable housing should be accorded considerable weight.”