CIVIC chiefs have approved a housing plan in Eastleigh which can become a flagship of national importance.

A partnership development will see Eastleigh Housing Associa-tion provide 15 flats in a three-storey terraced block on the front of the recently demolished Gold-en Hind pub in Twyford Road.

And a SEEABILITY scheme will ensure eight purpose-built flats within a linked two-storey block in the south east corner of the site for people with sight problems and learning difficulties.

Approval was granted, despite objections from 14 local residents, plus councillors' concerns about the lack of a safe crossing point for blind people on one of Eastleigh town centre's main feeder roads.

Members of the borough's Eastleigh local area committee approved planning permission, subject to a string of conditions, and asked for council engineers to come up with a report on how to provide a safe pedestrian crossing for the busy Twyford Road.

Head of development control, Colin Peters, said the site was included in the "urban renaissance quarter" in Eastleigh's new local plan.

But planning officers wanted "deficiencies" - such as the lack of a pedestrian crossing, poor footpath provision into the town centre as well as the lack of bus shelters - to be addressed. A spokesman for 14 Twyford Road residents had urged councillors to refuse the application, on grounds of overdevelopment of the site, loss of privacy, poor highway safety and pressure on roadside parking, which was already at a premium.

However, Eastleigh Housing Association's development manager Ashley Tett said the local authority had produced a housing needs survey in 1998, which showed the greatest demand was in central Eastleigh.

He also said: "In partnership with SEEABILITY and Hamp-shire Social Services, we have tried to satisfy a demand for supportive housing for those with visual impairment and learning difficulties.

"It is seen by the Housing Corporation as absolute priority for the south east region of this country."

In a report, councillors were also told the proposed development would set national standards of service, which were likely to be replicated elsewhere as an exemplary scheme.

Councillor Glynn Davies-Dear said councillors recognised the necessity for the high-density scheme including specialist accommodation.

But he added: "We are all reluctant, to a degree, to accept it because we know it is not what the residents want.

"It is very blatantly obvious that this development will need, and must have, a pedestrian crossing."