AN AREA near ancient woodland in Hampshire has been indicated as the preferred location to build more than 5,000 homes.

Councillors from Eastleigh Borough Council indicated the area to the north and east of Bishopstoke and Fair Oak, and south of Colden Common, as the preferred location for a new development which could see 5,200 homes, shops, schools, open spaces and a new access road north of Allbrook, Bishopstoke and Fair Oak.

However, the final decision on the plans could be made as late as this winter after the council considered the results of surveys aimed at showing the impact that the development could have on transport and environment.

Community and council bosses presented their arguments during a council meeting held at the auditorium in Kings Community Church, in Hedge End, last night.

Before the meeting, dozens of residents and members of the action group Action against Destructive Development Eastleigh (ADD) protested outside the venue.

As previously reported by the Chronicle, the plans, which are known as options B and C in the borough’s Local Plan, sparked a fierce debate between residents and naturalists because of the proximity of the proposed development to ancient woodland such as Upper Barn and Crowdhill Copse woods.

The woods are owned by the woodland conservation charity Woodland Trust.

During the meeting, Jack Taylor, speaking on behalf of Woodland Trust said: “Council and local authorities around the UK need to be looking at building more resilient landscapes, not less. They need to increase woodland and tree cover, strengthen existing connections between habitats and start creating a network of green infrastructure. We are concerned that option B and C would be a clear step back from these sustainable development principles.”

Many members of local organisations and local residents against the plans spoke out last night to enthusiastic applause and standing ovations.

The impact the development will have on traffic, environment, local infrastructures, pollution and the River Itchen were cited by objectors as the main reasons the new housing development should not be built in the area between Bishopstoke and Fair Oak.

Eastleigh MP Mims Davies, who was also present at the meeting, said she does not welcome the plan.

She added: “As time goes by, this council continues in their failure to put in place a well supported local part. I am ashamed by the proposals here in front of us which do threat ancient woodland locally.”

Responding to objectors, Cllr Keith House, leader of the council, stressed how the aim of the meeting was not to take decision but to note progress.

He added: “We are very much aware of some of those concerns and those issues and we’ll be looking at them incredibly seriously.

“We will ultimately have to take a decision between those competing choices. We are not there yet but the evidence at the moment is pointing more towards B and C.”

As previously reported, national policy requires the borough council to help meet a shortfall in housing across south Hampshire by providing 14,580 homes in the next 20 years.

Plans for almost half of these homes have already been given the go-ahead, such as the 1,100 homes and community facilities set to be built on a site south of Chestnut Avenue and west of Stoneham Lane in Eastleigh.