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Winchester protesters wait for Barton Farm homes ruling
RESIDENTS trying to stop 2,000 homes being built at a Hampshire beauty spot face an anxious wait to see if they have won.
A three-week public inquiry into the plans at Barton Farm in Winchester, held at the city’s Guildhall, has come to an end Government planning inspector Christina Downes is now producing her report for secretary of state Eric Pickles.
It is his decision whether Cala Homes can develop the greenfield site after Winchester City Council twice blocked the scheme.
The most recent refusal was last summer, and the authority defended its stance at the inquiry, which was called after Cala challenged its ruling.
Both sides, along with members of the Save Barton Farm Group, presented their cases on the last day of the inquiry.
The council’s barrister, Michael Bedford, said the site should only be released for housing if there was “compelling justification”.
He added that was not the case, and campaigners from Save Barton Farm Group also argued against the scheme.
Ann Gossling, speaking for the group, said: “All of these representatives have come forward to prevent this city from urban sprawl that is not in the right place, nor is it the right time.”
She then raised concerns about traffic problems, flooding and loss of farmland.
“If this suburb is permitted it will destroy the special character of this city forever,” she added.
Cala lawyer Peter Village said the scheme had been drawn up “with the DNA of Winchester firmly in mind”.
He added that the case for releasing the site was “overwhelming and undeniable”.
Ahead of the inquiry, Cala twice went to the High Court to strengthen its case.
Judges sided with the company the first time, while an appeal on a second legal challenge is likely to be decided in May.
Cala took the action to challenge the Government’s decision to scrap regional planning targets.
The firm argued that the figures must remain until the Localism Bill becomes law, which is not expected before November.
Until then the targets stand, judges decided, despite Mr Pickles saying last June that he wanted the figures abolished.
The inspector’s report on Barton Farm is likely to reach Mr Pickles within a few weeks.