DEFENCE chiefs have come under fire for selling-off part of a village green and a large field where children have played for over 50 years.

Furious residents in a Winchester village, many of whom have children, were only told a few weeks before the sell-off.

Parish chiefs wanted to buy the socalled “tennis court field” and all The Green in Barton Stacey, but cannot afford the £165,000 price tag.

The parish council is already raiding its reserves to buy a sports pitch behind Barton Stacey Primary School and about two-thirds of The Green – both of which it currently leases from the MoD – for the knockdown price of £7,500.

However the MoD refused to sell the parish all The Green despite it being a popular play area and venue for village events.

Instead, a 0.5-acre slice of The Green is to go under the hammer in London on February 19 along with the tennis court field off Bullington Lane, which is being sold as a single 11-acre lot.

Other MoD land up for grabs is a 0.6- acre site with 10 rented lock-up garages in Roberts Road and a 0.5-acre green space in West Road.

Currently, all the plots are designated countryside and off limits for builders.

But they are expected to be snapped up by housing developers who will apply to Test Valley Borough Council for a change of use.

More than 80 villagers packed an emergency meeting in the village hall last Sunday.

Paul Gibson, chairman of Barton Stacey Parish Council, said: “The hall was packed to the gunnels. People were literally hanging out the door.

“The general feeling is if the large field is sold to a developer, we will get perhaps 50 or 60 houses there which would be a significant increase in the size of Barton Stacey, which only has about 330 homes.

“There is interest in retaining the smaller field with the tennis court on it.

“There are people in the village who could afford to make a contribution, but if it goes to auction and is sold on the open market, we certainly could not afford to buy the land.”

Now villagers have started a campaign in a last-ditch bid to persuade the MoD to withdraw the land from auction or sell all The Green to the parish council.

Asked why they had not given the village more notice, an MoD spokesman said all the land was placed on the Register of Surplus Land in April 2011.

She said: “The MoD engaged with the parish council and as a result is offering it the opportunity to purchase the sports pitch adjacent to the school.

“The MoD has acted in accordance with Treasury guidelines which require government departments to maximise receipts from the sale of surplus land for the benefit of taxpayers.”