A PLAN to greatly increase the size of a Winchester house has been rejected by councillors amid claims of racial bias.

They heard that the applicants fear that opposition may have stemmed from their being mixed race.

But councillors said the ethnicity of the applicants was irrelevant and that the proposal, was simply too big and overbearing.

Planning officer Marge Ballinger had recommended approval for the house in Manningford Close, Abbotts Barton.

Applicant Nicholas Jones, a surveyor, wants to enlarge it from four bedrooms to the equivalent of six to allow for home working for him and his wife, who works for the BBC.

Agent Louise Cutts said: “My clients have been surprised at the level and tone of the objections especially persons who don’t live close to Manningford Close. At times Mrs Jones feels like a focused campaign against them leading Mrs Jones to speculate an element is related to the fact that they are mixed race family who have only just moved to the close, particularly as several relatively similar applications have been approved under delegated powers without objections.”

Committee chairman Therese Evans said: “The ethnicity of the applicant is not a relevant concern to this planning committee.” Cllr Frank Pearson said he had no idea about the family being mixed race until Mrs Cutts had mentioned it and agreed it was irrelevant.

His objection was to the design. “It is overbearing on number 11 particularly in relation to the zinc cladding. I have a similar building in my village (Swanmore), it stands out like a carbuncle and is widely-hated in the village, except the person who lives in it and the person who designed it. This is the same zinc cladding, battleship grey. I know we are cutting down the navy and have a lot of surplus paint but this is ridiculous. I like the design but it is just wrong in this place.”

There were 11 objections with neighbours citing overdevelopment and out of character with the area.

Neighbour William O’Brien said the house would increase in size two and a half times. “This is a step change, have a negative impact and create a precedent for future development,” with potential to be turned into a house in multiple occupation (HMO).

Ward councillor Paula Ferguson said: “This scheme will increase the house to two and a half times its existing size. There will be an impact on neighbours. The extension will feel big and overbearing. There will be a loss of privacy.”

Some councillors disagreed. Cllr Jane Rutter said: “I can understand the concerns of neighbours. But we live in a time when people are expected to work from home. We have to accept that people will want to extend so they can work in reasonable conditions and that is what this is attempting to do.”

The committee voted by five to four to reject the plan.