THE Government this afternoon approved the building of 2,000 homes at Barton Farm on the edge of the city.

The decision by the Department of Communities and Local Government will bitterly disappoint campaigners who have fought plans for some 15 years.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles had last year sent the decision to be made by the city council.

But he reversed his decision after the threat of a legal challenge by developer Cala Homes.

Steve Brine, Winchester & Chandler's Ford MP said: “This is a bitterly disappointing decision from the coalition Government.

"CALA homes have very deep pockets and have relentlessly pursued Winchester over many years until they got what they wanted.

"Because of the Appeal system it was always possible they'd win one day and today it looks like they have.”

City council leader Cllr Keith Wood, added: “Personally I am disappointed that the time has come to release this site for housing but the Secretary of State has applied his own rules and we have no choice but to follow them.

"We argued strongly about the application, but we have been overtaken by events. The Council now needs to ensure that the development of this site generates all the promised benefits to the community.

"We plan to set up a forum to help ensure that the development minimises the disruption to Winchester residents, and the infrastructure requirements are implemented properly and promptly.”

Of the 2,000 homes some 800 will be social housing for people currently on the city council waiting list.