A MAJOR blueprint for housing in the Hampshire countryside has been thrown into chaos amid a row over a huge plot of land.
Up to 1,000 homes were due to be built at Woodhouse Lane in Hedge End as part of a far-reaching plan for development being produced by Eastleigh Borough Council.
But those plans look to have been derailed after Hampshire County Council, which owns the land, said it was not releasing it for housing. Now there are fears the borough’s local plan could be pushed back by a year – costing the taxpayer £50,000 in fresh consultation fees.
Eastleigh Borough Council leader Keith House said green field sites that appeared to have escaped the bulldozer now faced being pushed back into the firing line for development.
However, Hampshire County Council said it informed the borough council this land was not available a year ago.
Cllr House said: “If we have to find land that is more sensitive and more controversial, that’s something that people have to hold the county council responsible for.
“It’s deeply unfortunate that we can’t give our community the certainty that we expected to give them in terms of protecting vulnerable sites across the borough from building and we’ll work as quickly as we can to give them that certainty.”
He said he thought the decision was political – that Conservative councillors did not want to allow controversial or unpopular developments close to this year’s county elections – a claim refuted by council leader Ken Thornber.
He said the land off Woodhouse Lane was part of the council’s farming estate and farmed by a tenant farmer, that the land was not acquired for development purposes and there are no plans for its release for development.
He said a letter was sent to the chief executive of the Eastleigh Borough Council in January 2012 detailing sites available for development, repeating that the Woodhouse Lane site was not one of them.
Cllr House said that although the letter was received, at the same time he was told by Cllr Thornber that he might have to change his mind.
He added that the county council had employed planning consultants showing how the land could be developed at Woodhouse Lane and its Cabinet had agreed the land could come forward for development.
“We had every indication that the county council was prepared to release the land up until the most recent correspondence just before Christmas,” he said.
“Our reasonable expectation was that the land would come forward.”