CIVIC chiefs have rubber stamped Winchester's housebuilding programme for the next 20 years.

Public objection to the draft Local Plan for 12,500 new homes was "remarkably limited", councillors were told as they approved the plans for government inspection.

If approved it will dictate where thousands of homes are built in the district between now and 2031, including many in rural areas.

Winchester City Council deputy leader Cllr Vicki Weston praised civic officers for their years of work and handling of more than 1,000 public comments.

"Inevitably the plan deals with some controversial issues and sites, but given that includes about 20 site allocations and proposes almost 1,500 dwellings on 300 sites, the level of public objection is remarkably limited," she said, standing in for planning portfolio holder Cllr Mike Read.

"Indeed many people have supported the plans, allocations and policies. This reflect the extent of the early and ongoing public involvement in the process."

Full council backed the scheme almost unanimously at a special summit last Wednesday.

The only rebel, Conservative councillor Ian Tait, said he wanted to "burst into tears" over Winchester's transformation into an expensive, "elitist" city.

"Winchester is wonderful, but it's not an inclusive city when people who aren't earning 70 or 80 thousand pounds a year will not be able to afford to live in Winchester," said Cllr Tait, criticising the council's struggle to make 40 per cent of new homes available at so-called affordable rent.

"I've become increasingly upset and saddened by the process, and I've not had that reassurance that over the life of this plan Winchester will not become a more expensive, more elitist city to live in. That wasn't the city that I've been brought up in."

Alresford councillors Simon Cook and Ernie Jeffs abstained amid ongoing controversy over the plan's impact in the town. Many residents are furious that most of Alresford's 500 new houses are being built on one site off Sun Lane.

Cllr Margot Power, the third Alresford councillor, voted in favour.

The plan allocates sites for thousands of homes in Winchester – including the Barton Farm scheme – plus 3,500 at North Whiteley, 3,000 west of Waterlooville, 500 each in Bishop's Waltham and Alresford and hundreds across villages including Kings Worthy, South Wonston and Waltham Chase.

It is also hoped the plan will further empower the council to reject unwanted planning applications.

Concerns were raised at the meeting about affordable housing, traffic, pollution and the council's ability to protect workplaces and play areas.

Local Plan Part 2 will be submitted to the Government in March, with examination hearings in early summer before the inspector reports next October.

If approved, the plan will be adopted in November 2016.