Residents in Eastleigh will soon know whether “controversial” plans to build over 5,000 new homes will go ahead.
The 5,205 houses are proposed to be built on greenbelt land between Eastleigh and Upham, angering environmentalists across the region.
In recent months Eastleigh Borough Council has received criticism over the plan, which has been deemed “disastrous” by campaign group Action Against Destructive Development Eastleigh (ADD).
To date, three councillors have resigned over the plans for varying reasons – the latest being Cllr Mark Balaam, who resigned earlier this month over concerns for the local environment.
Campaigners say that this is the wrong location to build, as it could potentially affect ancient woodland along with the River Itchen which is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest.
The Forestry Comission has also raised concerns throughtout the planning process.
A spokesperson said: “We manage and maintain this cherished wood and are committed to safeguarding its natural beauty.
“We have a legal obligation to protect and enhance the site, and the wildlife that lives there.”
The council has assured environmentalists that it is committed to ensuring the protection of the environment, and the diversity of the wildlife.
In a statement the council said it would properly protect the River Itchen and guarantee the conservation of Ancient Woodlands in the area.
The MP for Eastleigh, Mims Davies, told Winol: “Eastleigh Borough Council must make the best decision on housing and planning for the future based on the evidence in front of them, listening to constituents and experts and being mindful of the local environment and Ancient Woodland which contains trees that are hundreds of years old, and in some cases are older than some listed churches and cathedrals.”
Concerns have also been raised about the lack of public transport included in the plan, with campaign groups criticising how people will be encouraged to drive instead of taking greener alternatives.
Chris Todd from Campaign for Better Transport, a group dedicated to improving transport across the UK, told Winol: “We are opposed to the building of a new road upon which to hang new development as apart from the damage to the countryside it will generate a vast amount of traffic which will undermine the local economy and damage the South Downs National Park, by pushing more traffic through it.”
But council leader Keith House defended the plans saying: “We are determined to get the right quality and mix of homes in the right places and ensure infrastructure comes alongside homes, not as an afterthought.
“Getting the right roads, schools and community facilities, and ensuring countryside gaps between our communities are maintained.”
The decision is due to be finalised on the 11th of December, with the council saying that “getting it right is more important that doing it fast”.
It will then go to formal consultation at the start of next year, before being submitted to the Secretary of State in June. The final adoption is expected to commence in 2019.