PLANS to build three houses next to a church near Romsey could be given the green light by planning chiefs next month, the Advertiser understands.

An application was submitted to Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) to construct the four-bedroom houses west of All Saints Church in Church Lane, Awbridge.

If approved, the church would be able to create a car park with 42 spaces and extend their graveyard, giving them a total of 100 burial spaces.

Deputy leader for TVBC, Cllr Nick Adams-King, said he believes the plans are expected to be brought to the Southern Area Planning Committee on February 23.

He said: "Awbridge Parish Council will be deciding their position on the application at their meeting on January 14.

"If the parish council vote in favour of the application it is likely to go to the Southern Area Planning Committee on February 23."

As reported, critics of the controversial application claimed the development is not supported by the community, despite being branded as a "community-led scheme".

Manuel Caballero, who lives in Church Lane, said: "The proposal that the development would increase the community usage of the church is frivolous as Awbridge already has a modern, vibrant village hall a walkable distance away with good parking facilities."

He added the development is "a significant and unnecessary" change to the land, while criticising the "minimal" community consultation for the plans.

"There was a consultation to which I replied and objected to. Now I hear there is 'complete community support' for the proposal," he said.

Gregory Hine, who lives in the same lane, objected to the plans claiming he had not been invited to contribute to any community consultation, despite living "opposite the proposed development".

He said if the application is approved it could set a precedent for future developments, worrying this would create a "residential street in place of a country lane".

However, Cllr Adams-King previously backed the "community-led scheme", believing the church would be able to hold big events without residents having to park on a narrow lane nearby.

He told the Advertiser when there is a big event at the church cars have to park on Church Lane, which is narrow.

The applicant and one of the wardens for All Saints Church, Fred Tucker, said: "It is a long-standing problem and if we get planning permission for the three houses we can provide ourselves with a car park and have a community garden where people can sit in - at no cost to the church.

"We have also got about 20 spaces left in the graveyard and, although we don't have a lot of burials a year, if we don't provide that extra space unfortunately people are likely to be buried in the Romsey cemetery.

"This is not ideal because many people have chosen to be buried near their families, but if we have the extension we will have 100 spaces in total."