A PLANNING inspector has today backed Winchester’s blueprint for the next 20 years - opening the way for infill development in villages.

The city council Local Plan Part 1 has been found ‘sound’ by the Government inspector following the public inquiry in the Guildhall last autumn.

Inspector Nigel Payne concluded that the Plan, which will see 12,500 homes across the district up to 2031, “provides for a sustainable pattern of new development”.

James Cleary, managing director of Hursley-based Pro Vision Planning and Design, said: "It contains some large, strategic proposals including the allocation of Barton Farm but also frees up opportunities for new development in a range of smaller settlements where infill development had previously been ruled out."

Mr Payne supported the city council’s overall development strategy and approach to achieve sustainable communities across the Winchester District.

He has added some 500 homes to those proposed at Whiteley near Fareham.

His recommendations are binding and will now be put to the Cabinet and Council to allow final adoption of the first part of Winchester’s new Local Plan.

Taking into account houses completed, planning permissions granted and strategic allocations at Barton Farm, North Whiteley and West of Waterlooville, the Winchester district already has identified locations for 10,500 of its allocation just a couple of years into the 20-year plan period.

That leaves around 2,000 to find through Local Plan Part 2 which has recently started.

Rob Humby, deputy leader and portfolio holder for strategic planning for Winchester City Council, said: “I am delighted that the Inspector has found our Local Plan sound, one of only a handful across the country since the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework in March 2012.

“This will provide the certainty that the district needs to plan positively. It will ensure that the right amount and type of development is delivered so that the district remains prosperous.

“The Council has listened to its communities throughout the preparation of the plan and we now have a local plan that reflects local views, and which puts Winchester in control of its future.”

Mr Cleary said: "This is a big step forward for the district. The last Local Plan (adopted in 2006) was prepared in boom years after 2000 whilst this new Plan takes account of more recent government policy and the economic slowdown.

"Now the strategy is in place the focus will now shift towards the identification of sites to make up development land allocations needed in settlements such as Bishop’s Waltham, Alresford and Kings Worthy where a wide range of alternatives will be considered.”

He added: "While much of the Plan is 'business as usual' there are some significant changes in the council's policies on sustainable development, low to zero carbon development, affordable housing and design."