TEST Valley councillors are set to debate plans to build 64 homes and create a nature reserve in countryside at Oxlease Farm just north of Romsey.

The 160-acre site sits between Belbins Copse in the north and Fishlake Meadows Road in the south.

The application, to be debated at next Tuesday’s meeting of the southern area planning committee, is for five three-bedroom affordable homes, 35 four-bedroom and 24 five-bedroom homes.

Most of the proposed homes would be built on land in the River Test floodplain currently used to graze horses.

Applicant Tim Hanslip is offering to transfer 140 acres of former agricultural land, now designated as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (Sinc) to the west of the Old Barge Canal, to TVBC to be run as a nature reserve.

Contributions from cash raised from the sale of houses would go to the council to help it manage and maintain the reserve.

Planning officers are recommending approval of the scheme but Romsey Extra and Romsey Town Councils are fiercely opposed to the project.

Romsey Extra members say the proposed development is in the countryside which is against TVBC’s policies and there is “insufficient justification” for the housing.

The town council claims the number of houses is “too great” for the site.

Borough planners have also received 19 objections from the public who are worried about the impact the proposals will have on the area.

Planners also received about 10 letters supporting the scheme.

Borough planning officer Liz Harrison says in her report that the benefits from the nature reserve would outweigh the impact of the proposed development.

She added: “...the lack of a five-year land supply and the National Planning Policy Frameworks presumption in favour of sustainable development outweigh the harm caused by developing a site in the countryside with less than 40 per cent affordable housing.”