PLANS for a major “distribution hub” at Basingstoke Gateway, understood to be intended for use by international online retailer Amazon, have been given the green light by councillors.

In a meeting lasting nearly three-and-a-half hours, members of the Development Control Committee debated the application put forward by Newlands Property Developments for a 630,000 square foot warehouse on the land north of Junction 7, off the M3.

Despite voting to refuse an outline application by the same developer for four warehouses on the site earlier in the meeting, with one councillor stating ‘it doesn’t belong here’, the majority went with the recommendation by officer Sue Tarvit to give full permission to the single unit.

The decision came after a nail-biting final debate, with most members declaring themselves 'on the fence' at some stage.

One of the major concerns raised was about the loss of 80 historic oak trees from the area.

Parish councillor for Dummer Julian Jones said there will be "disruption" to a host of wildlife as a result while, during debate, Cllr Chris Tomblin said he was "mortified" by "no objection" from environmental health. 

Addressing the meeting, Mayor of Basingstoke Cllr Diane Taylor urged members to "take a step back". 

The ward councillor for Oakley and North Waltham said: "I don't want this legacy to be mine. You can count me out of this."

Cllr Hannah Golding, also representing Oakley and North Waltham, added: "I have seen nothing that would reassure me that this land would be protected in order to mitigate the landscape harm."

However, Matt Thomas, on behalf of the applicant, talked about the developers "sustainable travel plan" worth £1.4 million, while agent Ms Davis added that, visually, there would be “no impact” on nearby Dummer as the single building, although 23.5 metres high, will not be visible from the village.

The agents also reiterated the introduction of approximately 1,500 jobs, 1,300 of which would be needed “within the next 18 months”. 

In the end, the need for jobs and seeming reduction in visual impact of just the one building appeared to outweigh concerns, but only just.

Cllr McCormick talked about the need for jobs and said "we could do a lot worse".

"If this scheme doesn't go here, what is the likelihood it will go elsewhere on the M3 and the M4 because there is clearly a demand for warehouses," he said. 

Cllr George added: "Clearly this smaller portion which does not have the same visual impacts is a positive thing." 

But for some, the environmental impact was too much, with Cllr Harvey saying: “I just think the location is something we've got to think about. If we were talking about another, more appropriate place in the borough, this would be a much easier decision.”

Cllr Nick Robinson moved that the committee accept the application, as per the recommendation of council officers, adding that he was ‘sad’ to do so, but knew a decision must be made.

It was seconded by Cllr Sven Godesen, and passed by six votes to four, with Cllrs Dave George, Stephanie Grant, Jane Frankum and Andy McCormick joining the fors, and Cllrs Paul Harvey, Michael Bound, Chris Tomblin and David Potter against.

Although approved for full planning permission by the borough council, a group of six local MPs have applied for the decision to be ‘called in’ by central government over concerns for a potential hospital on the site. 

Concluding the meeting, Cllr Paul Miller, chair, said: "It really is one that was marginal, I think we can all agree. But we will see what the next process brings."