PLANNERS have rejected a plan for a new house at a village saw mill near Alresford.

A previously reported, Mr and Mrs J Gibbs want to demolish the buildings at Totford Saw Mill, on Basingstoke Road, Northington, and build a four-bedroom detached house.

The proposal has a lot of local support but city councillors rejected the scheme on Tuesday as contrary to policy as it would have been a new house in the countryside without justification.

The planning committee, met ‘virtually’ with councillors accessing it from their homes.

Northington Parish Council has no objection to the plan and there were nine letters of support, with several saying it would remove a ‘nuisance use’ and bring young family back into the area.

The applicant has submitted a viability report which states that the site cannot reasonably be used for an expansion of the existing business. It cannot be marketed as the ageing building would not get an energy performance certificate, said agent Andy Partridge.

But Cllr Brian Laming said: “We need to retain as much rural employment as possible. Marketing should have been done. Have they looked at developing 3-4 smaller houses. There is a need to 2 and 3-bed properties in rural communities.”

But Cllr David McLean said the plan would remove a “scruffy site.”

Cllr Frank Pearson said the applicant was caught in a Catch-22. He operates a business from the site but a plan for further industrial B2 use has been turned down.

Cllr Caroline Horrill said: “It is essential that we stick to policy and do not allows dwellings in the countryside. Much more could be done to bring the site to a different use by the applicants.”

Committee chairman Therese Evans said if permission was agreed the knock-on effect would be other developers would seek to build homes in the countryside as a precedent would have been set.

The committee voted by seven votes to one abstention to reject the application.