COUNCILLORS have approved measures which would stop development on a Winchester beauty spot.

As previously reported, the Water Garden, which backs onto Winchester Cathedral, was sold for more than £100,000 earlier this year sparking fears that it may be redeveloped.

Concerns were first raised about the Water Garden when the Colebrook Street site was put up for sale in December. The listing by Winchester estate agents Belgarum said “there may be future development potential.”

Those concerns had resurfaced after a proposal to build a single-storey dwelling on the site was discussed at a meeting in April.

As a result, Winchester City Council sought a tree protection order, which was last week approved by the council’s planning committee.

The committee heard that the trees “are of sufficient public benefit and public visual amenity value to be protected” and the unanimous approval by councillors now, in effect, stops any development plans.

The proposal was put before the committee after an objection was lodged on behalf of the Water Garden’s owner, understood to be a consortium including Hampshire Ukip leader Alan Stone.

According to the council report: “The objector states that in his opinion there is nothing about either of the trees to suggest the removal of the trees would have a negative effect on the local environment.

“He considers that it is not expedient to serve the TPO as the trees are not under immediate threat.

“The objector states that pruning work is now needed to address the abrasion of the adjacent building by branches from the trees and the implementation of this work structurally compromises the trees and therefore the trees would not meet the criteria for protection by a TPO.”

The committee heard from Cllr Lynda Murphy, who spoke in support of protecting the trees. She said: “It has become clear to me how much the public appreciate the Water Garden and the trees.

“I have had a letter from Sir Peter Smithers’ (the creator of the Water Garden and former Winchester MP) daughter, Amelia. She said he had a particular love for Magnolias (the trees under the TPO).”

READ: Sir Peter Smithers - remembering the man who created Winchester's iconic Water Garden >>>

Alison Drayton, speaking on behalf on the Hampshire Gardens Trust, added: “The garden has become iconic in its own right.

“The trees are in excellent health; apart from a small amount of pruning, they can serve their function for decades to came.”

As previously reported, Mr Stone denied that he planned to build a home on the Water Garden, and said he wants to carry out work on the trees so it could be used to hold functions.

He said: “What’s the point of having something that beautiful and building on it. We have a nice block of land, we want to do something with it.”

Asked about calls for it be kept a tourist site, Mr Smith added: “If the council wanted to to buy it, they had the opportunity.”

Prior to February, the land had been owned by Lady Barbara Calcutt, the widow of Sir David Calcutt, before she died.

It was then passed onto her executor who arranged the sale.