A CONTROVERSIAL expansion of a Hampshire market town has been approved by planners.

City councillors on the planning committee unanimously supported the scheme for 320 homes, new open space and an industrial estate on farmland to the east of Alresford.

The proposal by Seaward Developments has been highly contentious with some 189 formal objections from nearby residents. One of the main bones of contention was a new access off the A31 town bypass to service the industrial estate.

But the scheme has been worked up for several years in conjunction with the town council and with much public consultation.

It has caused a spat within the Conservative party. City MP Steve Brine called for a deferral until assurances are given around the traffic impact.

But local city councillor Lisa Griffiths, 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.”

Speakers against the scheme included city councillor Kim Gottlieb and the parish councils in Bishop’s Sutton and Cheriton which fear the impact of extra traffic.

But the Alresford Society supported the plan as did local resident Jon Cranfield who said the benefits include public open space, ecology, biodiversity, drainage and employment opportunities.

Mr Cranfield told the Chronicle: “I am sure that there will be a backlash to this decision from the small minority in our town. It was pointed out, by Cllr Lisa Griffiths, that in the past 1,200 homes were built from the 1970s onwards and the figure of 320 homes is a fraction of that.”

He said the objectors have dominated the debate for too long and it is time to work with everyone involved to find the right solution for the development of Alresford and Winchester district.