COUNCILLORS have refused plans to build a massive warehouse near Junction 7 of the M3 in an astonishing U-turn.

Six months after the plans for an Amazon warehouse were initially approved, councillors voted down the slightly amended scheme on Wednesday night in an extraordinary set of circumstances after a parish council threatened to take legal action.

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council said the development control committee meeting would be re-run, and councillors this time came to a different outcome.

By nine votes to two they decided that the landscape impact of the 630,000 square foot development would be too great. They also cited that the development would prejudice the green infrastructure strategy, biodiversity and connectivity, and that there was no overriding public need for the proposal.

Much of the two-hour long debate centred around whether the destruction of the countryside and 70 mature trees, of which more than 100,000 people had petitioned the council to stop, was worth the jobs that would be created.

Jo Davis, appearing at the meeting on behalf of the developers Newlands, had told the meeting that it would create around 1,300 full time jobs directly, but the committee challenged if that number may not be realised as the future occupier - widely understood to be Amazon even if the online retail giant's name was not mentioned in Wednesday's meeting - would want most of the space to be automated.

Ward councillor for Oakley and the Candovers, Cllr Diane Taylor, added that there were other examples where the 'future occupier' only delivered a fraction of the jobs they promised in the application stage.

"Please don't let us be taken us to the cleaners," she told councillors making the decision. "If this is given the go ahead, please let it be on the record that I am opposed to this."

Fellow ward councillor, Hannah Golding, added: "I don't believe that you have to accept this. Our own officers object.

"Our landscape officers objects, our urban design officers objects, our tree officers objects. Indeed our biodiversity also offer various objections, but then come to the strange conclusion that they should waive their objections for the public need."

Cllr Golding said that the jobs promise "rings hollow" and that there is no need for "jobs at all costs".

"For housing, we always say build on brownfield first, so why is it different for logistics? We are we ignoring our own policies?

"You know that newly planted trees do not provide a rich ecosystem as established trees as do those on Oakdown Farm, and that it will take decades to regain that habitat."

Committee members tussled with the jobs versus the countryside issue, with Cllr Jay Ganesh weighing up: "We should be encouraging inward investment and bringing more jobs, especially in a post-Covid climate. We've had considerably higher unemployment issues, but we've seen that improve.

"We can clearly see from landscape officers' comments that this is something that we on paper can mitigate, but can we mitigate the 70-year-old to 120-year-old trees being fallen and how long it would take for those trees to have an impact? I don't want to be part of the councillors to do that."

Cllr Paul Harvey added: "There is no question we need jobs in Basingstoke, and it would be wrong to argue we don't. That doesn't mean that this site is the be all and end all. This site needs to be judged on its merits.

"There is an argument around the trees, it may not be designated an ancient woodland, but our trees officers tell us they are relevant to what would be an ancient woodland.

"On the basis of the argument in front of us, I come down in favour of refusal and I don't believe the application does meet the mitigation."

The application would have seen £54 million of investment in the borough. Addressing the tree controversy head-on, Mrs Davis said that the trees "had to go" because of the topography and the efficiency of the site, but that 76 per cent of the tree canopy will be retained and there will be "biodiversity net gain of 43 per cent and 7.2 hectares of new mixed woodland planting".

However, councillors were not convinced, and said that it was not worth destroying the 70 mature trees for.

Developer Newlands now have an opportunity to take the application to the planning inspector if they choose to appeal the decision.

Earlier this month, they appealed the council's decision back in April to refuse the outline application for the wider Basingstoke Gateway scheme.