The council leader has said he is "bitterly disappointed" with his fellow councillors' decision to refuse plans for a new Amazon warehouse near the M3.

Councillors on the development control committee rejected plans to build a 630,000 square foot warehouse at Oakdown Farm earlier this week, citing concerns over its impact on the landscape and biodiversity.

Responding to comments by Gazette readers, Cllr Ken Rhatigan, leader of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, said he was "bitterly disappointment" by his colleagues' decision to refuse the plans, and that he "massively regrets the committee's decision".

Among those who voted to refuse the application were four of Cllr Rhatigan's Conservative councillors - Cllrs Richard Court, Jay Ganesh, Paul Gaskell and David Leeks.

Commenting on The Gazette's website, Cllr Rhatigan said: "My disappointment is for the 3,595 who are currently unemployed locally who may have had the opportunity to have improved their standard of living with a role at the site.

"Of course the decision was made without political input from me and I did not speak to ensure that there was no pressure on my councillors having been advised to continue my absence from committee.

"The benefits of millions of [pounds] to the local economy, plus funding for a [mass rapid transport system], as well as 18 acres of new woodland will be sorely missed but many towns have had worse days so we will soldier on doing the best we can for the borough.

"I will continue to engage with investors into borough to bring employment."

The day before the initial meeting in April, Cllr Rhatigan had spoken out in support of the application, saying he hoped councillors would follow the officer's recommendations. The next day, the committee followed the officer's recommendations.

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 on behalf of the developers Newlands, said that the warehouse would directly generate 1,300 jobs - 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.

Legal challenge had 'possibility of success'

Wednesday night's meeting was held after Dummer Parish Council asked Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council to revisit the decision, threatening legal action if they did not.

They said that after taking legal advice they found an "issue of material fact" and that the decision did not "adhere to planning policy".

As the decision notice had not been issues, BDBC decided to re-run the meeting.

Cllr Rhatigan revealed that he was advised that the legal challenge could have been successful and therefore holding the meeting to make a new decision was the right way forward.

He said: "We were advised that the legal challenge had the possibility of success and therefore a new application was the right way forward."