PLANS for a massive new town in central Hampshire have suffered a huge blow.

Zurich Assurance has been defeated in its latest bid to promote a 12,500-home development at Micheldever Station, north of Winchester.

The company, and its forerunner Eagle Star, has been lobbying for the scheme for nearly 25 years.

But it has abandoned its legal challenge to Winchester City Council's adoption of Local Plan Part One, following the rejection of its case by the courts.

Zurich had gone to the Court of Appeal following the rejection of all of its grounds for challenge by the High Court in March.

Refusing leave to appeal, Lord Justice Sullivan said that the original judgement 'is both comprehensive and thoroughly convincing' and that there was no compelling reason to grant permission to appeal.

This means that any uncertainty over the Local Plan has now been removed and that it is not possible for Zurich to ask the courts to quash any part of it.

Cllr Vicki Weston, council portfolio holder for built environment, said: “We were always convinced that the challenge by Zurich was unjustified and its submission has caused a good deal of unnecessary work and expense. The council will be compiling a claim for its legal costs to be reimbursed.

“The High Court judgement dismissing Zurich's claim was clear that the Plan was properly examined and adopted. This will be helpful in progressing Local Plan Part 2 and dealing with any relevant applications or appeals.”

This outcome helps to ensure that Winchester City Council will have strong planning policies for the future which are essential to deal with speculative development challenges that conflict with planning policies such as the new one for 500 homes at Pitt Vale, off Romsey Road, proposed by Linden Homes.

Douglas Paterson, chairman of the Dever Society, set up to fight the plans, said he was delighted: “This really good news. It has been such a long struggle. It looks as if Zurich will give up trying to get their way.

“They have been looking for a chink in the armour of the plan, but the city council planners have done such a professional job that Zurich were not able to dislodge it.

“They have now been told by top lawyers and an appeal judge that they are wasting their time. You can never assume they have gone away for good.

“But this is really good news. Finally we can sit back and relax for a time anyway. We will be opening the champagne,” said Mr Paterson, a farmer in the middle of harvesting.