RESIDENTS in North Waltham have been inspired by the village's history to try and keep it separate from building in the borough.

Residents have been inspired by 18th-century novelist, Jane Austen after gathering to discuss plans for a nearby development of thousands of new homes at Popham Airfield. 

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s latest local plan update is suggesting the development, which would potentially see land just 300 yards from the village built on. 

Parish council chairman Robert Cooper said: "That would put this huge development site just half a field’s width from our historic village."

The meeting, held last Thursday, February 15, was called to gauge residents’ reaction to the plan. More than 50 people crammed into the village pavilion.

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Basingstoke Gazette: Cottages in Yew Tree Lane, North WalthamCottages in Yew Tree Lane, North Waltham (Image: George Hayter)

Cllr Cooper said: "We were amazed when so many turned up. Our meetings usually attract one or two of the public if anyone at all.

“All their questions were about how to stop it. People wanted to know how to object and keep green fields between us and the town.

“We like Basingstoke but speaker after speaker made it clear they want the village to stay a village and not be swallowed up by our big neighbour."

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North Waltham, which has a population of 900, has 16th-century thatched cottages and is thought to have begun shortly after the Norman conquest.

Jane Austen was born in 1775 half a mile outside the village, in the rectory at Steventon church, where her father was rector. There she wrote her first three novels and often walked to North Waltham.

At the meeting, one North Waltham resident chided Basingstoke council for putting road signs at their boundary announcing the borough as “birthplace and home of Jane Austen".

The angry resident wanted borough planners to remember that the world-famous author had loved the countryside around North Waltham, adding: “And what are they doing with Jane’s heritage? Replacing it with warehouses and fields built over!”

The closing date for public comments on the borough’s local plan update is Monday, March 4.