HUNDREDS of people today attended a demonstration against plans for a huge housing development near Winchester.

But none of the 280 people left the comfort of their homes this afternoon as the event about the Royaldown scheme was held virtually.

It had been planned to stage a walk around the area but that was scuppered by the lockdown.

Instead people heard speeches and viewed photos of the area. A technical problem scuppered the showing of a video taken by drone.

Farmer Nick Russell proposes a new town of 5,000 homes on farmland between Hursley and Oliver's Battery, sparking strong opposition from local people and Hampshire CPRE, the Countryside Charity.

Chris Beddoes, chairman of demo organiser Save South Winchester group, said: "We are here to show our opposition to the Royaldown large-scale development on the green fields, south of Winchester."

Politicians of both parties, the Conservatives and Lib Dems, were united in opposition to such proposals.

City MP Steve Brine said the need for such large schemes had not been shown.

And he added: "This is my home; it’s the place I chose to live and bring up my children. It matters to me that we have a thriving, successful local economy and it matters to me we protect what makes us want to live here in the first place. My kids, like all the young people I interact with in this job, care a lot about the environment and the natural environment. They look to us to protect it and enhance it so they can make a + choice to live here when they’re grown up."

Cllr Jackie Porter, city council portfolio holder for built environment, said Royaldown needed to use farmland owned by Hampshire County Council and without its support the scheme was "undeliverable".

"Because anyone can propose land for development- even if it isn’t yours. The next stage (of the Local Plan process) identifies deliverability. This is where the developer’s pipe dream becomes a problem for him. If the land owner (HCC) won’t give permission for the land to be developed, then the plan for that development is undeliverable. In this case, without Hampshire’s express permission, the proposal as it stands won’t go any further. It’s the safety net of the Local Plan."

Royaldown is on the SHELAA list of potential sites compiled by Winchester City Council, although the ruling Liberal Democrat administration says it has no choice in the matter and the site has to be considered. The council is consulting the public over its new Local Plan that will guide development over the next 20 years.

Felicity Roe, a senior director at the county council, said Royaldown was placed on the SHELAA list and the developer was wrong to say it had the support of the county council. "The land was promoted by a third party speculative property developer without the consent of HCC. That box was ticked by mistake by the developer. We have given no formal consideration to release the land and would not do so unless we are approached by the city council as part of the need for strategic land supply.

"We have written to the Royaldown land promoter to say we have not made this land available for housing development. We have no proposal than to do anything but farm that land."

Read more here: Hampshire County Council denies support for the new town

Read more here: Campaigners form alliance against new towns

Also speaking was Tessa Robertson, chairman of the Dever Society, fighting plans for a 12,500-home new town at Micheldever Station. She said new towns had been shown to "suck investment away from existing places. New towns are the worst option to meet housing needs and we are calling on the city council to reject them."

Caroline Dibden, of Hampshire CPRE, the Countryside Charity, called for the area around south Winchester to be part of a proposed South Hampshire Green Belt. A poll of people at the demo showed 97 per cent support for such a green belt.