Winchester councillors are supporting a scheme for a travelling showpeople's depot in woods near Micheldever despite fierce opposition from villagers.

A viewing sub committee recommended approval by three votes to two for the winter quarters on land behind the Driver's Diner cafe at Innersdown on the A33.

The final decision will rest with planners next Thursday. Planning chairman, David Atwell, said travelling showpeople faced "prejudice" wherever they went.

The site was "perfectly acceptable" provided it was landscaped and conditions imposed. Under the scheme, up to 50 showpeople could live in mobile homes on the Stratton woodlands site, not 200 as claimed by opponents. The plan is to sub-divide the site into nine plots for nine families - all members of the Travelling Showpeople's Guild.

But residents fear the council will be unable to enforce legal limits on the number of people or vehicles on site.

More than 50 villagers packed into Northbrook Hall in Micheldever after a site visit by councillors on Wednesday.

Villagers spoke of their worries about lorries using narrow country roads. But there were no objections from highway chiefs and the applicant, Patrick Burton, said fairground trailers would only use the A33 and M3. The showpeople face eviction from their present site in Botley Road, Shedfield, after losing a nine-year planning battle with Winchester City Council which ended in the courts.