PLANNERS have rejected a new "speculative" office building in the countryside near Otterbourne.

The scheme, on land south west of Woodlands Park, Poles Lane, was for flexible office space.

The proposal was recommended for refusal due to its location in the countryside. 

It was quashed by Winchester City Council's planning committee on Wednesday, November 15. 

Speaking in support, Cllr Adrian Brophy said: “Finding office space to let for small businesses has been incredibly difficult, especially since the pandemic. This development provides a different offer for small businesses. 

“Demand for spaces like this are inherently hyper local. There is an opportunity for more people to enjoy this area.”

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Applicant George Scott-Welsh said: “There are huge local waiting lists which can't satisfy the need. The need is replicated at all of our sites.”

Planning consultant Louise Cutts added: “This is the only opportunity that has come up in five years. If this isn't approved, I don't know where the start-ups will go.”

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City council planning manager Lorna Hutchings advised the committee to refuse the scheme. She said: “This is unchecked office development. It sets a strong precedent. We can't expose ourselves to speculative new builds.”

In the planning officers' report, it said: “The proposed development is a commercial use situated outside the settlement boundary of Otterbourne. As such is it clearly contrary to policy MTRA4 which only allows essential development in the countryside and significant weight must be given to this policy in this case.

“The applicant does not give justifiable reasons as to why a rural location is essential for their business, other than that their existing and proposed clients have requested this type of setting which is an argument which carries very little weight. The Local Plan does not identify a need for additional employment land, including startup units, in this location, neither has the applicant submitted a sequential test to support their proposal.”

Hampshire Chronicle: Scheme supporters

Cllr Chris Edwards said: “There is much to like here, it's innovative and imaginative. The design is to be commended. A lot of work has been done here to support start-ups. The economy would benefit from this. 

“But, it remains the case this this land is outside the settlement boundary. We have clear policies to protect the countryside. In my view, it's an attractive proposal in the wrong place.”

Cllr Patrick Cunningham said: “There is no essential need for this in this location. I would have liked to support this, but it's in the wrong place.”

Cllr Brian Laming said: “It would provide employment in the villages. But we are up against policy. I'm disappointed, but we have to refuse this.”

The scheme was unanimously refused.