CIVIC chiefs backed plans to build thousands of homes near ancient woodland in Hampshire, despite protesters claimed there was not enough evidence about the impact on environment and traffic.

Councillors from Eastleigh Borough Council voted in favour of the proposed Local Plan which includes proposals for 5,200 new homes, shops, schools, open spaces and a new access road in the area to the north and east of Bishopstoke and Fair Oak.

Residents, protesters and council bosses presented their arguments during a council meeting held at the Ageas Bowl which finished at about 1am this morning.

While civic chiefs said their choice is “the most logical option”, protesters and opposition councillors all agreed on saying that “Eastleigh deserves better.”

Members of the action group Action against Destructive Development Eastleigh (ADD) - which has been campaigning against the proposed plans for homes near ancient woodland - voiced their view by singing a song just minutes before the start of the meeting.

During the night, residents voiced their concerns about the impact the development will have on traffic and environment, with many claiming the council did not have enough evidence to make a decision.

But council leader Keith House stressed the council had enough evidence to support a decision.

Councillors also decided to delegate authority to the chief executive and leader of the council to complete and update the evidence base before the plan is sent to the Secretary of State.

But opposition councillors stressed the need to take the plans before the full council again once the evidence is complete, with Judith Grawjeski, leader of the Conservative group, saying voting on the plan would be premature.

Cllr House said councillors were facing a very difficult choice but said the plan is deliverable.

“We either agree to move forward or the Secretary of State will step forward”, he added.

This comes after civic chiefs have been told that they have ten weeks to explain why they do not have a Local Plan on housing, or face the government stepping in to do it for them.

A Local Plan is a long-term blueprint for future housing developments which guides decisions on planning applications.

Eastleigh Borough Council’s target was to deliver 16,250 homes by 2036, but a previous Local Plan for 2011-2036 was thrown out by a government inspector in 2014.