A BID to create up to 10 homes at a disused quarry has been described as “unacceptable” over fears it could harm nesting falcons.

Developers are asking East Hampshire District Council for outline planning permission for the Ropley Lime Quarry site in Soames Lane, near Alresford.

However, residents and conservationists have objected over fears for local wildlife following a critical report which labelled the risk to nesting peregrine falcons as “substantial” and “unacceptable”.

Tristan Norton, senior ecologist at Hampshire County Council, wrote in a letter to planners: “I have now reached the carefully considered opinion that, on balance, the risk of the birds deserting the site altogether is substantial and that this is an unacceptable ecological impact.

“From my discussions with Mr Keith Betton of the Hampshire Ornithological Society (HOS), the Ropley quarry pair are one of only four pairs in Hampshire whose nest site is in a natural/semi-natural setting, rather than on an artificial structure such as a pylon or building.

“In my opinion, This raises the conservation significance considerably.”

Mr Norton added: “Although not listed as threatened, the peregrine falcon remains an uncommon species across the UK. The population in England has only recently reached a good state of recovery following near-catastrophic declines.”

It is thought the falcons have been nesting at the site for the past three years.

Among the other objectors to the plans was the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust(HIOWWT). Trevor Codlin, senior specialist for planning and development, said: “The presence of a breeding pair of peregrine falcons in the quarry... is significant and we remain concerned at the potential success of the mitigation proposals.”

“To exclude this pair from their nesting site for one season and then expect them to return, find the new nest holes and breed when the character of the site will have changed significantly, must be considered to be very optimistic.

“Given that the species has recovered from a very low number during the 1960s, when none were known to breed in the county, it is disappointing that these development proposals should be allowed to effectively exclude this pair from a site they have used for the last three years.”

However, defending the scheme in a statement, developer GVA said: “The design process has sought to minimise the impact on habitats and species found within the site, whilst also incorporating appropriate mitigation measures.

“The redevelopment of the site offers the opportunity to improve the ecological situation, including improvements to biodiversity and planting of native species.”

This would not be the first development in the area to affect the birds, if approved. As previously reported, Winchester welcomed its first clutch of peregrine falcon chicks in three years last month after the city’s only pair nested on the roof of Winchester Cathedral.

The pair had originally been nesting on the former Hampshire police headquarters, based in Romsey Road, in 2011, but had to relocate after the building was demolished in 2016 to make way for more than 200 new homes.

It is not known when a decision is expected on the proposals, which were lodged in October, but it is possible they could go before a planning committee on June 21.