FARMLAND in a village near Winchester can be converted for equestrian use, planners have decided.

Villagers had opposed a plan for fields off Main Road Otterbourne

C. Barron, C. Hull and G. Lovegrove have applied for planning permission for a change of use of farmland into a pony paddock and the building of a stable block with hard standing and access track on land.

The site, near the Old Forge pub, comprises three parcels of land totalling just over six hectares that has been fallow for some time. A public footpath runs across one of the fields.

In 2019 plans for 90 homes on the land were fought off.

Planning officers recommended approval but there have been more than 20 objections including the parish council. A report said the council believes the "new buildings will harm the landscape and the right of way is used by dog walkers, which may cause a problem when there are horses.

"The properties that use the access track will be affected by the regular riders visiting the stable as well as the transportation of waste products. It is unsuitable for the use of large horse boxes."

In total there were 24 objections,some raising concerns about the safety of horses on the main road and that approval leaves the site open to future applications for residential development as have previously been submitted.

Local city councillor Hannah Williams raised concerns about access onto the busy Main Road. "The main concern is additional traffic leaving ans entering the site. It is a busy road with heavy traffic flow.

"This has been a piece of land with quite a lot of contention. It is a resource people have used, and the footpath has been used for a number of years. Particularly recently with Covid-19 it has been a great resources for the village.

"The site should stay as private use and not become a commercial site."

Cllr Brian Laming said he too was worried about traffic. "In the next few years when we have the work on the M3 (smart motorway) Main Road will become a major diversion route."

Councillors asked whether restrictions could be placed on the times the paddocks could be accessed. Sophie Heritage, planning consultant for the applicants, said that would be unreasonable.

Cllr Laurence Ruffell said the site was large enough for 10-12 horses. "What happens with 10-12 lots of people, 10-12 lots of traffic movement, lots of manure?"

But in the end the councillors voted unanimously to approve the plan, which was identical to a proposal approved in 2016.