A CONTROVERSIAL expansion of Alresford is set to be decided today by Winchester planners.

The planning committee will debate plans for 320 homes, new open space and an industrial estate to the east of the market town.

At issue is whether the bulk of the 500 houses that must be built in Alresford order the next 15 years will be on one site or scattered through the town.

Over the last five years the town council has argued it should be in one place but people living near Sun Lane still hope to scupper the plans at the last minute.

A major cause of objection is Seaward Developments plan for a new access off the A31 onto the new industrial estate.

The city council has received more than 180 objections. The planning committee was today being urged by its officers to approve the scheme.

City MP Steve Brine says councillors should be prepared to defer a decision until assurances are given around the traffic impact of the scheme.

His last-minute intervention has angered city councillor Lisa Griffiths who called it “shameful”.

Mr Brine says he is not convinced the long-term impact of the development has been sufficiently considered and questioned the available detail for the new highways arrangements.

He said: “Winchester has a signed off Local Plan in accordance with Government policy and that rightly includes a quantity of new homes in New Alresford. I am not seeking to re-open that because the town needs new growth if it, and especially its many independent businesses, are to survive.

“Nor am I challenging the decision, made with a great deal of public input, to locate that growth on one site with the appropriate infrastructure and a strategic plan to deliver it.

“The issue is, even at this late stage, we don’t have that in sufficient detail for Sun Lane and I think we absolutely should before an informed decision can be made.

“I am especially troubled by the proposed roundabout on the A31, which we should remember is a new addition since the public inquiry, and the apparent lack of detailed plans as to how it would be delivered with the new slip road seemingly very close to existing homes.

“I am acutely aware, not least as someone who lives locally with a young family, that Alresford has benefited from the A31 bypass for almost 30 years and we need to be very careful before we punch a new hole in that.

“This application has lots on the look and feel of the houses, which is great, but that’s for another day when detailed planning permission is sought. What we need now is details around the roads and the ramifications of what is being proposed.

“My message to councillors on the planning committee is, you have one chance to get this right. Deferring the decision has to be better than making the wrong decision because the one you take will have lasting impact on this community.”

His comments angered Tory city councillor Lisa Griffiths, a former chairman of the town council, who said: “Steve Brine has, throughout the years of debate on the Sun Lane site, maintained that it is not his role to comment on planning issues, despite the strategic nature of this proposal. I am therefore extremely disappointed that he should make these remarks at this very late stage. Our officers, both at the city and county councils, have gone to considerable lengths to ensure that they feel confident in their recommendation to approve the Sun Lane application and to publicly dispute their work is shameful.

“Having taken the brunt of criticism and been subjected to repeated demands to re-evaluate data, they are fully aware of the potential of a challenge based on the work which informed their recommendations.

“I am reassured that they have been more than thorough, and have well exceeded the usual requirements in their preparations to recommend this outline application for approval.”