PLANS for a Hampshire housing development will be re-considered after concerns that throwing them out could lead to a costly appeal.

Senior planners rejected a proposal to demolish a detached home in Chilworth and replace it with four smaller homes in a close.

But they found the decision taken out of their hands after the council was advised there was a danger the refusal could cost taxpayers money if the developer challenged the decision.

Chilworth is subject to certain development restrictions because the council has labelled it a “residential area of special character” meaning homes cannot be built that are “significantly smaller” than what is there.

Councillors questioned whether the plans for the site at Heather Hill, off Chilworth Road, met that demand.

Chris Patey, from Chilworth Parish Council, which objected, said the proposed homes were significantly smaller than other homes in the vicinity and did not fit with the area.

He told the meeting that the council’s policy did not define a specific size and that there were comparable sized houses nearby, but several councillors questioned if that was the case.

Some said that the plots were too small and the houses were too similar in design.

Cllr Tony Ward said in his opinion the change was not significant enough to cause harm to Chilworth.

However, Chilworth councillor Nigel Anderdon said: “Chilworth is an area of large houses in large plots for people with deep pockets, a lot of money.

“We have very few of these houses available in this borough and to divide them up and to divide them up into quarters I consider to be totally ridiculous.”

Cllr Nick Adams-King and several other councillors said whether the houses could not be seen from the road should not make any difference as it was out of keeping.

However, having voted to refuse planning consent on the scale, layout and design and that the size of plots was not compatible with the character of the area, Jason Owen, the council’s development manager for the south, raised concerns.

He said the combination of comparable other plots and the lack of visibility of the site to the public meant the impact on the character was limited.

“There is a risk of afforded costs at appeal,” he said.

Cllr Steve Cosier said that costs would have an impact on the whole borough and he was not prepared to take that risk.

In line with council rules, this triggered a move to take the final decision to planning control committee – a mixture of members from the north and south planning committees.

The southern committee could only make recommendation to refuse.