PLANS to build as many as 700 homes on the outskirts of two villages have been thrown out by council planning chiefs.

An outline application to build the homes, a primary school, nursery and open space off of Pale Lane, Hartley Wintney, has been thrown out by Hart District Council, in a move the developer has described as 'astonishing'.

The council cited six reasons for the refusal for the proposal called Elvetham Chase, including 'inappropriate development' which would have a 'detrimental effect on the character and setting of the countryside'.

However, the decision was issued by council planning officers, rather than being heard by councillors.

Emma Gruenbaum, from the firm behind the plan, Wates Developments, said: "Housing in Hart is in crisis, with the district council relying on a 22-year-old Local Plan, and the emerging plan remaining untested and therefore a long way off adoption.

"With homes costing 12 times average household income, the simple fact is Hart needs more homes now.

"This decision prevents 280 new affordable homes being delivered to help the 1,300 families currently registered on the housing waiting list. The council’s decision to refuse this sustainable, high quality, proposal offering a total of 700 homes, delivering an outstanding new community, is simply astonishing.

"This exemplar landscape led scheme would, we believe, become as loved locally as its predecessor Elvetham Heath. We remain 100% committed to the site and are reviewing our next steps."

Through developer payments, Wates Developments added if the proposal had gone ahead, it would have spent at least £17m on infrastructure including £10m on school improvements and £6m on improving roads.

Daryl Phillips, joint chief executive at Hart District Council, said: "There is no purpose in referring unacceptable development proposals to a Planning Committee.

"The Council has a very healthy land supply and there is no merit in Planning Committee discussing a development proposals that flew directly in the face of a recently agreed Local Plan which is shortly to be submitted to the Secretary of State.

"Therefore, following consultation with local councillors and the chairman of the Planning Committee the application was correctly determined by the head of regulatory services."