THE CONTROVERSIAL Shapley Heath Garden Village is not necessary, according to the incumbent MP for North East Hampshire.

Ranil Jayawardena, who is seeking re-election for the Conservative Party, made the comments at a hustings event for North East Hampshire at Life Church Hook on Monday night.

Mr Jayawardena says that he would "put brownfield land first for regeneration".

It comes as Hart District Council are considering plans to build up to 10,000 new houses on land around Winchfield, something that has proved highly controversial.

Answering a question from a member of the public about greenfield development, Mr Jayawardena told audience members: "No I don't believe it is necessary. I believe there is a clear plan that we can deliver to secure the right homes in the right place with the right infrastructure and use brownfield land to do that. We could get infrastructure in first. This is a huge issue for local people, and if we build 10,000 homes between Hook, Hartley Wintney and Fleet, it's going to dramatically change the way of life for people in this constituency."

However, Liberal Democrat candidate Graham Cockarill, who is also the Hart District councillor with responsibility for the scheme, said that Mr Jayawardena's plans were idealistic.

"In an ideal world, you would always start on brownfield land, you would always build on previously undeveloped land and you would never need to go to any greenfield ever," he said. "The fact is that the amount of brownfield land in Hart that is available is very limited."

Mr Cockarill cited that in the largest development currently planned by the council was for 1,500 houses on brownfield land.

He said that investigation work for the process was forthcoming, adding: "If Shapley Heath, or anywhere else in Hart, doesn't work as a practical plan, we will do something different."

Labour's Barry Jones, who admitted that he wasn't aware of the details of the scheme, added: "If there was absolutely no alternative, I would reluctantly go along with it. All developments should be where the need is, it should be designed in a context and it should be arranged to make the minimum impact on the environment."

Also standing for election in North East Hampshire, but not invited to Monday's event, are Green Party candidate Culann Walsh, Independent Tony Durrant and Monster Raving Loony Party "Howling Laud" Hope.