PLANNERS have revealed that they want to see major expansion of Alresford onto farmland to the east of the market town.

A public meeting attended by some 80 people heard the city and town councils believe some 320 new houses should be built on fields off Sun Lane.

Industry would relocate from The Dean to a new site with access off the A31. The freed-up town centre land could be used for housing including a nursing home. A large chunk of the land off Sun Lane would be open space.

But Perins secondary school will now stay on its current site on Pound Hill instead of relocating as previously suggested, Steve Opacic, head of strategic planning told the meeting at Alresford Recreation Centre.

Mr Opacic said the growth was the best way of stopping the town becoming an elderly dormitory and preserving the local shops, schools and services.

He said the Government had said there must be 500 new houses in the town by 2031. A small site for travellers must also be provided, he said.

It was crucial to plan for the 500 homes otherwise the town would be left with no weapon to fight developers. "We have to take the bull by the horns. this is a bold solution, we don't deny that. Some might have other words for it."

Previous public meetings in 2012 and 2013 discussing similar ideas have been ill-tempered with strong opposition but last night there was some support for the ideas.

Peter Pooley said: "It is worth emphasising if we want Alresford to remain as it is a number of things have to change. One of them is the number of houses. If we don't, then the population will decline and the prosperity of Alresford will decline."

But Prof Brian Tippett, of Derwent Gardens, raised concerns about traffic access into the town centre from the new development. He called for a new access to the B3047 Bishop's Sutton Road.

Before the meeting, Dorothy Hamilton, of Arle Gardens, said she had conerns but objected to the word Nimby. "It is because of that they we have preserved the beauty of England."

Jan Field, chairman of the Alresford Society, but speaking in a personal capacity, said: "This (Sun Lane) is probably the best solution. There is very little infill space left."

A six-week public consultation now starts before a draft plan is drawn up by this July.

A public exhibition was staged during the day attracting around 180 people on Tuesday, said town council chairwoman Lisa Griffiths.