A NEW town in the Winchester district is being considered by civic chiefs drawing up a new Local Plan.

It is one of four options being discussed by planning officers and councillors at the city council.

The news will throw the spotlight back onto Micheldever Station which developers have been promoting as the site for a new town since the late 1980s.

Tessa Robertson, chairman of the Dever Society, formed to fight the proposals, said: “We understand that at this stage the council is required quite rightly to examine all possible options to accommodate Winchester’s future housing need, and this includes new settlements.

"However, it is clear from their own figures that the number of new homes required by 2038 is far less than the 6,000 houses being put forward by the owner of the land at Micheldever and his developer. A new town at Micheldever is not needed and as has been concluded over and over again, is not the best solution for Winchester District."

Ms Robertson added: “With thousands of new homes already being built to the south west of Basingstoke only a few miles from Micheldever, and proposals for thousands more, there is a real danger that Micheldever and Basingstoke could join up. And once the new town is started, it will inevitably grow, putting at risk the important green buffer between Winchester and Basingstoke.”

MP Steve Brine said: “My constituents will be entitled to ask how many times we have to say no to a massive new town the size of Petersfield in the Hampshire countryside.

“Councillors running Winchester need to show some courage and make clear it’s neither needed, wanted or appropriate and we won’t destroy the Downlands in the pursuit of profit for remote land owners and developers.”

The new town option was discussed at the Local Plan Group. Cllr Jane Rutter said: "The initial reaction is to throw hands up in horror. But is this an opportunity to develop a model, sustainable, zero carbon small town? Given the experience of Kings Barton we would have to make sure the infrastructure was built and right from the start. It would give an opportunity for a higher proportion of affordable housing."

Cllr Therese Evans, chairman of the planning committee, said of a new town: "Dare I mention Micheldever? It has a train station.

"Please don't overload that area that took all the housing before," referring to her patch of Wickham in the Southern Parishes which has seen major schemes at North Whiteley, West of Waterlooville and Welborne.

Cllr Evans said the Council for the Protection of Rural England is campaigning for a new green belt in southern Hampshire, "because unless we do something soon there won't be any green space left; it will have been built on."

Cllr Jackie Porter raised the issue that 40 per cent of the Winchester district is now covered by the plan for the South Downs National Park, which could produce tensions. "I hope we don't end up with a pitched battle between the north and the south of the district."

Cllr Caroline Horrill, Conservative group leader, said: “On the current data we have received, I can see no evidence to support such a significant development at Micheldever Station for housing or employment use.

"I am clear that development on greenfield sites is unnecessary when we have brownfield sites available to us across the District and over development is something we absolutely need to guard against.

"As one of the Wonston & Micheldever ward councillors I will work with my colleagues to ensure that we support the community in Micheldever in the work we will need to do, to show that there is no requirement for this site in the next Local Plan.”

The other three options are stocking with the current Local Plan but adding 10 per cent higher housing numbers; focus housing on Winchester as the most sustainable development; or dispersing development around the district in various places.

The news comes as the city council is compiling a list of potential sites. A 'call for sites' in January led to 287 being submitted by developers and landowners. It is not yet publicly available.

The SHELAA (Strategic Housing and Employment Land Availability) will only identify sites which have been proposed and does not allocate sites.

The council stresses that the inclusion of the site in the SHELAA does not imply that the council would grant planning permission.