PLANS to move a controversial animal research laboratory to a quiet Meon Valley village have been thrown out.

Wickham Laboratories' bid to move its operations to Upham near Bishop's Waltham has been quashed by a planning inspector.

The firm was appealing after Winchester City Council rejected the scheme at Torbay Farm. It had wanted to bulldoze the existing site and build a modern two-storey office block.

Planning inspector Jonathan King, rejecting the appeal, saying it was out of keeping with the rural surroundings and would impact negatively on neighbours.

Wickham Laboratories said it was yesterday (Monday, July 12) considering its position. It had suggested at the inquiry it might sell the site if planning permission was not granted.

Animal rights protestors, who regularly hold marches against the company's activities, said they were 'over the moon' with the decision.

“We're absolutely delighted,” said Marjorie Pooley, co-ordinator of Winchester Animal Concern. “Surely now Wickham Laboratories will throw in the towel?”

Ann Judd, chairman of Upham Parish Council, said: “The council is very pleased with the inspector's decision and I think the village on the whole is delighted.

“The parish is very pleased for the immediate neighbours who were aghast at the plans,” she added. “The community spirit was excellent at the enquiry - the way neighbours stood up and answered the inspector's questions was excellent.”

Chris Bishop, technical director of Wickham Laboratories, said: “We are extremely disappointed to have been unsuccessful with our planning appeal and we were keen to move on after several years. While we understand many of the concerns of local residents we hoped to allay those and be a positive influence in the village.

“Wickham Laboratories provides important services to the medical, healthcare and food industries and these new laboratories would have allowed us to provide these services in a modern, efficient manner within a purpose designed facility.

“Much of the inspector's report is both positive and helpful in dealing with a number of issues that have been raised by planners and others. It was also positive to see the inspector had not given any weight to representations made by third party campaigning groups.”

Mrs Pooley added: “The inspector is a government representative therefore obviously he will not give us credit for anything. But we believe we supported the council and local people, who were delighted we were involved.”

The inspector's decision reflected that of Winchester City Council's planning committee, who threw the scheme out because it was too big for its rural setting.

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