PLANS for an indoor equestrian centre near Romsey have been deferred, after the applicant started work before planning permission had been granted.

A planning application was submitted to Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) by Blackwater Equestrian to build the arena on land at Oak Tree Farm, Foxes Lane, West Wellow.

Now, the proposals have been reined in by TVBC’s Southern Area Planning Committee on Tuesday after councillors voted to push back the plans by 11 votes to one. This comes after the plans whipped up more than 120 objections and 26 letters of support.

Critics of the controversial application worry the building would tower over the area. Others believe it will increase the risk of flooding if given the go-ahead by planning chiefs.

However, the applicant’s agent, Mark Doodes, hit back saying residents losing their view over the current site is not a valid reason to reject the plans.

Mr Doodes, from Mark Doodes Planning, said: “It is fair to say the scheme is not popular locally and many residents have written to object for a successful business to expand in a rural area.

“There is no doubt proposals can be seen from nearby residents’ homes and from a public highway. These residents rightly cherish the views they have enjoyed over my client’s land for decades, but this is not a reason to resist planning permission.”

But Conservative Nick Adams-King, who represents the Blackwater ward, criticised the applicant for starting work on the site before permission has been granted.

He said: “It is to be regretted the applicant has chosen to begin work on the development without permission being granted. “This has not helped the situation and fed the concerns of local residents.” The applicants were advised to stop work more than once by planning enforcement before complying, the councillor added.

He said: “The site’s location is key to the application. I fear it is not possible to properly understand the context of the site without seeing it for yourselves.”

Conservative Gordon Bailey, who represents Blackwater, backed Cllr Adams-King’s idea to defer the plans.

He said: “From the photos that we have seen they are not representative of what is actually there. “It looks quite different to that and, because of that we asked for a site visit and I think a site visit is the correct way to go for members of the committee to understand the situation on the ground. “I would like to propose this application is deferred for the time being until we have had a site visit.”

This proposal was seconded by Liberal Democrat Alan Dowden.