PLANS for 5,200 homes near ancient woodland in Hampshire have been turned down.

Planning inspector Christa Masters said the plans for 5,200 homes and a new access road on land between Bishopstoke and Fair Oak should be removed from Eastleigh Borough Council’ s Local Plan.

She said the process of considering the reasonable Strategic Growth Option (SGO) alternatives has been “flawed”.

The council has now been asked to reconsider the proposals which would impact upon villages such as Colden Common, Owslebury and Twyford.

The authority stressed that its proposed SGO has not been dismissed nor found unviable.

Members of action group, Action Against Destructive Development (ADD) said the inspector’s recommendation is exactly what ADD has been campaigning for since 2016 and have now offered to work with the council.

As previously reported, the proposals for 5,200 homes – better known as option B and C – were backed by Eastleigh councillors in 2017.

Campaigners had raised concerns over the impact the development would have on pollution, traffic and ancient woodland and asked the council to consider other options such as the expansion of Bishopstoke to the south and Horton Heath to the west (option D) and the extension of West End to the north of the M27 (option E).

Now in her letter to the borough council Inspector Christa Masters said: “I am not convinced that the assessment of alternatives and possible mitigation measures has been undertaken on a comparable basis and mitigation in relation to the issue of settlement gaps has not been consistently applied to the alternatives considered. There has been no combined analysis within the SA [Sustainability Assessment] of option D and E. This was ruled out due to the effects on settlement gaps. As a result, the selected option of B and C does not represent the most justified and reasonable way forward.”

She described the consideration of alternative options as “inadequate”.

Referring to the policies relating to option B and C and the proposed link road she added: “I therefore conclude that these policies should, therefore, be deleted from the local plan. ”

She also said the council had provided “very little evidence” to support the inclusion of the Chickenhall Lane Link Road in the plan .

The inspector suggested the authority could either prepare specific evidence concerning the timing, phasing, delivery and funding of the Chickenhall Lane Link Road or delete it from the plan.

John Lauwerys, ADD chairman, welcomed the letter and said: “This is a tremendous day for those thousands of ADD supporters. The inspector’s letter means that Options B and C can no longer go ahead, which has always been our main aim. The leader of Eastleigh Borough Council appears to be in denial claiming that this marks some kind of victory for him, which suggests that he hasn’t actually read the inspector’s letter. However, ADD would be delighted to work with the council and share its knowledge to help it come up with a local plan that genuinely meets the housing needs of the area and does not cause avoidable environmental damage.”

Hitting back, Eastleigh Borough Council leader Keith House, said: “The Planning Inspectorate has endorsed a route for the council to achieve an adopted Local Plan, sought additional information that we will progress, and recommended that long-term growth be considered in a future review of the Local Plan. There is a real risk that pressure group ADD will mislead residents.  The Inspector has not rejected the Strategic Growth Option and has been very clear to say so.  What the council has been asked to do it to provide more evidence on long-term growth, following achieving significant levels of new homes in recent years.  We will do so.  The overall case is clear that the only deliverable option to tackle traffic congestion and still keep the separate identity of our communities is growth in the north of the borough.  The council will assess the Inspector’s letter in detail and respond in due course. ”

He also said the authority remains committed to protecting green gaps and securing the Chickenhall Lane Link Road.

“In the meantime the Cabinet will look to progress getting the Local Plan adopted as quickly as realistically possible,”Cllr House added.

In a statement the borough council said: “The Council is pleased that the Inspector has given a clear indication that the Local Plan can be found sound .The Council is particularly pleased that the Inspector has found it is well-positioned to provide sufficient housing.”