PLANNERS debated for hours over proposals for a retirement village at the site of a controversially closed boarding school.

Councillors finally voted to approve the plans, which will provide a selection of one, two and three bedroom retirement properties for over 55s, along with facilities including a restaurant, bistro, library, health club and a swimming pool.

Concerns were raised over the claimed lack of information provided by developer Audley Retirement to build 155 properties at Stanbridge Earls.

“We are the decision makers and we have not been given the information needed to make a decision,” proclaimed Romsey councillor Clive Collier, pictured.

“New information has only just arrived; we have not had enough time to assess it.”

But councillors were told this information was only minor and that, following almost two years of dialogue between Audley and Test Valley Borough Council, they had enough before them to make a decision.

“I am just amazed that after two years the officers are getting amended plans the week before we are due to discuss it,” added Cllr Collier.

One objector told councillors that it was too big a development for the countryside.

“I support the concept of a retirement village, but this isn’t a village,” said Nicholas Lockyer.

“What you are being asked to approve is an example of over development, based on a commercial requirement of 155 units.

“The result is an unacceptable loss of mature trees and an inappropriate collection of building block more likely seen in a large town or suburban area.”

But Cllr Peter Hurst, member for Romsey Tadburn, said: “I can recognise the need for this type of scheme.

“The site does need to be redeveloped.”

And Valley Park councillor Alan Dowden added: “I think it is in a wonderful location and a wonderful application.”

Nevertheless, Cllr Collier, who voted against the plans, added: “We should not compromise a countryside location, whatever the need is for this type of scheme.

“I think it is inappropriate for an urban development such as this to be built in the countryside.

“Forget the need, it is a totally inappropriate design for the location.”

Audley Stanbridge Earls is expected to open in Autumn 2019.

Nick Sanderson, CEO of Audley, said: “The decision marks the start of an exciting new chapter in the development of Audley Stanbridge Earls and we’re now looking forward to putting our plans into place.

“We always work hard to ensure that we add value to local communities.

“From bringing jobs to the area and revitalising the surroundings, to welcoming visitors to the health club and restaurants.

“This, along with our open and direct approach with the local authorities and communities, is why we are incredibly proud of our unbroken success in achieving planning permission.”