PENSIONERS who thought they had won a reprieve in the fight to save their Chandler's Ford homes could have a new battle on their hands.

For a High Court ruling has put controversial proposals for the Velmore Estate back into the melting pot.

Atlantic Housing plans to bulldoze 18 bungalows and build 32 two-bedroom flats and 24 two-bedroom bungalows triggered off a storm of protest.

When Eastleigh Council did not determine the applications for planning permission in time it fell to a government planning inspector to decide the issue.

He rejected the applications because he could not be satisfied that granting permission would not breach the human rights of the residents.

But now one of the country's senior judges has given the housing association new hope of securing planning permission for phase one of the controversial scheme.

High Court judge Mr Justice Collins ruled that the inspector was "clearly wrong" to reach his conclusion.

He ruled that the residents' human rights would be amply protected by the county courts if and when it came time for Atlantic to launch eviction proceedings to further its proposal.

He said that redevelopment of the site was necessary to provide a greater number of higher quality affordable homes for elderly people "of whom we are told there will be more and more as time goes by".

The judge said that the rights of the elderly residents affected had to be balanced against the rights of Atlantic Housing as the site owner, and those of other elderly people in the area who might be in need of affordable housing.

He said that the inspector had himself found that the existing accommodation was "outdated, unusually small and substandard" and that the proposal would increase the number of affordable homes in the area.

The case will now be returned to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Hazel Blears, to be reconsidered by a different inspector in light of the judge's ruling.

Atlantic Housing's group finance director Graham Brombley said: "Yesterday's ruling in the High Court has shown that Atlantic Housing did not act in any way that was contrary to the human rights of people living on the Velmore Estate.

"We are working in full consultation with local residents over the redevelopment plans and have assured them that anyone who does not wish to leave their home will not be forced to do so."