CONTROVERSIAL plans that could allow an animal testing laboratory to be developed on Hampshire farmland have been given government approval.

Plans for Wickham Laboratories to develop a site at Torbay Farm in Lower Upham, near Bishop's Waltham, have been repeatedly thrown out by Winchester City Council on the grounds that the site is unsuitable to be developed for industrial use as a laboratory.

In April 2005, Wickham Labs launched an appeal at the High Court arguing that the land had already been used for industrial - rather than just agricultural use - as chickens kept at the farm have been used to provide eggs for vaccinations.

But following a High Court decision in December last year to quash the decision and consider a fresh appeal hearing, Wickham Labs' owner William Cartmell has now been granted permission to develop the site.

The decision has outraged animal rights protesters who regularly lobby outside the labs that have been in Winchester Road, Wickham, for 40 years.

A spokesman for Winchester City Council confirmed it had spent more than £20,000 on outside advice and consultants and said the fight was not over against the labs as they would have to have planning permission approved by the council.