Residents will have plenty of opportunity to have their say on future housing developments in Basingstoke and Deane as time goes on, according to the top planner at the council.

The authority’s head of planning and sustainability, Ruth Ormella, told a meeting of councillors last week that the spatial strategy which caused so much controversy was “more iterative than what’s being presented” and that the local plan update was an “evolving process”.

It's a key part of the local plan update and it saw more than 100 residents gather outside the council’s offices earlier this month to protest against the amount of housing planned for the borough, with many saying the 18,000 new homes planned was too many for the borough to cope with.

At the adjourned second part of that meeting, Ms Ormella apologised for not making clear that "we are so early in the process".

Picking up particularly on a point about not having all the pieces of evidence in place, including water cycle studies and transport assessments, she told councillors: "What’s become clear is that the evidence is an evolving piece of work and is a process that will happen alongside and will happen towards the delivery of a draft local plan.

"Maybe what we didn’t really clarify or make entirely clear was that we’re so far at the beginning of the process that we have an opportunity to continue to shape the local plan and the outcome and capture matters such as the environment bill, planning reforms and the good evidence we’ll be collating, all the way through towards regulation 19 (final draft consultation), in the winter of 2022."

She continued: "Why have we got this report at the moment? It’s so we can present our spatial strategy and our shortlisted sites so that we’re able to show, working transparently with you all, having your comments at this early stage to help our work.

"It’s far more iterative than what’s being presented and maybe we weren’t clear.

"We are so early in the process that many of the letters and the emails that we’ve received as officers has only really highlighted that maybe we weren’t clear with that, so my apologies for that."

Nonetheless, some councillors were unhappy that the debate was continuing despite having the evidence base in front of them.

Speaking about one example on 9,000 homes to the south west of Basingstoke, Cllr Gary Watts told the committee: "Where is the transport assessment? Where is the funding?

"It is fundamental to have the rapid transport scheme.

"I would like to see hard evidence on the table before we go into site specifics."

Meanwhile, Cllr Paul Harvey said: "We can't be choosing sites for you to go away and analyse but then it to be locked in, and then the transport study justify the sites because of your analysis.

"If the evidence is going to be made to retrospectively fit the choices we make tonight, we would be saying yes to Manydown, yes to Bramley, yes to around Old Basing.

"That for me is really worrying, that is not the right way to go around this. We have to get the evidence right."