A SCHEME to build homes in a Test Valley village to help fund a new countryside park has come under fire from the parish council leader.

Wilky Property Developments and Bargate Homes are behind a scheme to build 30 homes at The Orchard and a further dwellings at Woodside both off the A27 at Chilworth.

The proposals also includes earmarking 170-acres of land at Hut Wood as part of a new recreational woodland alongside the M27 between Nursling and Rownhams in the west to Chandler’s Ford in the east and Southampton in the south.

This will be known as Forest Park and it is part of Test Valley Borough Council’s long-term blueprint to provide recreational facilities in the woodland, including walking, cycling and horse riding.

A feasibility study has already been carried out by TVBC and the Forestry Commission and landowners in the areas concerned support the idea in principle. Also included in Wilky’s project is a plan to provide 49 acres of land at Chilworth Common North for public open space.

However, Chilworth Parish Council chairman and the village’s borough councillor Alison Finlay is not happy with the housing element of the proposals which includes 26 open market homes and seven rented properties. “The application proposes a major change to the landscape in Chilworth, particularly with respect to The Orchard, a site on the main road through the village. The proposed development there is dense compared with existing areas in Chilworth,” said Mrs Finlay.

She also attacked the Woodside proposals. “Although the plan for the Woodside site, for three homes in large plots is more in keeping with the area, the access to that proposed site is difficult because the lane at Woodside is very narrow. Local residents are concerned that lorries will get blocked in.

“They have already experienced considerable disruption over the last few years due to major building works on other sites in the lane and some are not keen on more disruption,” added Mrs Finlay, who pointed out that Wilky staged an exhibition in the village about the plans just before Christmas and 130 people attended it.

Mrs Finlay said that villagers were issued with questionnaires asking for their views on the plans.

“Wide consultation with local residents is continuing as it is important that local views are taken into account fully when the planners make their decision,” said Mrs Finlay.

She agreed that the Forest Park would benefit the wider community if it gets the thumbs up from the Government planning inspector who is deciding whether to give the Revised Borough Local Plan should be given the green light.

“If approved, it should provide welcome recreational open space for the increasing number of people who are to be housed in Southern Test Valley. It does, of course, need to be managed and maintained so that it is accessible but without damaging the important conservation and environmental benefits that it undoubtedly has,” concluded Mrs Finlay.

One villager, who did not wish to be named, said the proposals represented development in the countryside and were not welcome.

“The fundamental issue here is that the proposed development directly contravenes TVBC local planning policy. This land is designed as ‘countryside’ and we expect both the parish and borough councils to uphold planning policy and reject this development,” said the resident.

However, Wilky believes borough planners may support its proposals because of potential benefits to Chilworth and the neighbouring area.

Company director Jeremy Gardiner said: “The council (borough) is willing to contemplate that there may be exceptional circumstances in which the significance and scale of the community benefits included would justify a departure from normal planning policy.”

He pointed out that the majority of the proposed Forest Park at Chilworth is on land forming part of the Willis Fleming Estate.

“This planning application proposes housing developments on two sites within Chilworth, both also on land within the Willis Fleming Estate, as ‘enabling developments’ to generate the funding to deliver a range of community benefits including public access to Hut Wood as a phase of the Forest Park, and also access to Chilworth Common North in the heart of the village,” said Mr Gardiner.