AN IMPORTANT “green gap” on the outskirts of Romsey is under threat again after a developer announced plans to build more than 100 homes and and sport centre.

Foreman Homes’ scheme for 116 homes and a leisure centre between Halterworth and Highwood Lanes comes just two years after a government planning inspector rejected an appeal by Glowfern Ltd to build 59 homes on land adjoining this site’s northern boundary.

The inspector, Gyllian Grindley, ruled that the site was “outside of the defined settlement envelope” and the green gap between Romsey and North Baddesley should be retained. Despite this, Foreman says it will submit a planning application to Test Valley Borough Council in mid-April. The application site is owned by the Edom Trust and covers about 23 acres, including land leased by Hampshire County Council as a depot.

Steve Carrington, Foreman’s planning director, said the development would be a mix of one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom properties and it was envisaged that 46 of the 116 homes would be in the “affordable” category.

“In terms of job creation, the building work itself will generate dozens of construction jobs over a period of two years,” said Mr Carrington.

A £3 million indoor sports centre with 78 parking spaces is also part of the scheme.

There would be be two main sports halls catering for football, hockey, netball, tennis, badminton, bowls, basketball and volleyball plus a third much smaller building for offices, toilets, classrooms and refreshments. Mr Carrington claimed the sports facility would create between 30 and 50 part-time and full-time jobs.

Opponents of the plan include Romsey MP, Caroline Nokes, who said: “I regard this as an entirely speculative application, in an area which has always been an important gap between settlements,”

“The appeal decision in 2011 was a very robust refusal for development within this gap and a decision that I wholeheartedly support.

“I have long campaigned to retain the local and strategic gaps and I am on record calling for more greenbelt in Hampshire and I think the gap between Romsey and North Baddesley would be a good start.”

Chairman of Romsey Extra Parish Council, Ian Hibberd, is also against the scheme.

He said: “Romsey Extra is under siege from speculative applications such as this, which is merely for profit. The area concerned is in the countryside and recently there was another application close by which was rejected at appeal. This application merits similar treatment and the parish council is firmly against the proposal.”

Christine Bryant, whose Grade II listed thatched cottage backs on to the proposed development said it would be “outrageous” to build on land liable to flood in winter.

She said she was shocked when she heard of proposals to develop the fields, next to her property, where she keeps her two horses.

“My fear is for my house, which was built in 1540. I am worried that if the fields are built on, my property could be liable to flooding because the fields are under water in winter and at one time the water was over a metre deep in February,” said Mrs Bryant.

“Where is all this water going to go, if the fields are built on?” asked Mrs Bryant, who has lived at Luzborough Cottage for 16 years.

“I don’t believe that a listed building should be surrounded by mass development and I am also concerned about the traffic implication this will have. We are already seeing the impact the Abbotswood development is having on Highwood Lane with a big increase in traffic using it.

“Riding a horse along Highwood Lane is now like riding along the M27. It’s horrendous. With all the other areas being built on around Romsey, soon you won’t have any country lanes that are safe to ride on.”

Neighbour, Pat Williams, whose bungalow borders the site, was also unhappy with the proposals.

“This area is supposed to be a local gap, but it looks like they are trying to get rid of it. Botley Road had to be closed in February because of all the flooding and the infrastructure is not capable of taking all these extra homes. Besides losing the green space between Romsey and North Baddesley, we will also lose all the wildlife that lives there,” she said..

Campaign group, Romsave, which is battling to stop 1,300 homes being built at Whitenap,  warned that Highwood Lane was unlikely to be the last large-scale housing scheme to come forward while Test Valley Borough Council’s troubled planning blueprint, the Revised Local Plan, awaited adoption.

Recent proposed major developments, on  sites not included in TVBC’s plan, include:

- Ganger Farm, Woodley - 275 homes;
- Parkers Farm, Rownhams - 350 homes;
- Oxlease Farm,Cupernham - 64 homes;
- Luzborough Lane, Whitenap  - 58 homes.

Romsave chairman, Simon Curtis ,said: “Romsey is becoming a target for developers and this type of application won’t be the last and it is encouraged by the lack of a credible or effective Local Plan.”

A public exhibition on the plans, advertised by a leaflet delivery, was  due to be held at the Montfort Hall, in Romsey, yesterday (Thursday).