A PLAN for up to 10 homes at a disused quarry which sparked outcry over the risks to nesting falcons has been thrown out.

A decision on the proposal for Ropley Lime Quarry had been expected in early summer after being submitted in October 2017 but was delayed for a number of months.

However, the scheme, which was branded “unacceptable” by critics and attracted dozens of objections, has now been thrown out by councillors at East Hampshire District Council (EHDC).

Developers had been seeking outline planning permission for the site in Soames Lane, near Alresford, and the project had been recommended for approval.

A report said any impact from the development would be "acceptable", and £100,000 contribution would have gone towards providing off-site affordable housing.

However, councillors on the planning committee went against officers, rejecting the scheme as they felt the site "comprises a greenfield site which is located in an unsustainable location outside the defined Settlement Policy Boundary for Ropley".

As previously reported, residents and conservationists 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 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.”