Controversial plans to turn three fields at Standford Grange Farm in Headley into a Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) to allow 147 homes to be built on the former Mill Chase school site in Bordon were approved by East Hampshire District Council's planning committee last night.
Council planning officers had recommended granting permission for Miller Homes' proposed 24.6-acre SANG despite 26 objections.
Miller Homes planning director Rob Collett described the plans for the SANG, which must be funded and managed for 80 years, as "good quality proposals".
He said the Standford Grange Farm site represented the best option of those considered, being large enough in area and with sufficient ability to accommodate a circular walk of appropriate length to satisfy Natural England guidelines, and also offering "biodiversity enhancements" set within a "tranquil landscape".
Objector Julian Waters said: "The future of the farm is in peril and that farm is worth saving, not just because it would be absurd at a time of national insecurity in food to close a working farm or reduce it to a start-up farm.
"It shows that we still do live in a rural area, and to lose it – or worse to imperil it, because that is what will happen because we cannot foretell the future – is absurd when it is so unnecessary.
"The committee report before you is both biased and misleading. It fails to point out a rather important point that a SANG for the Mill Chase development is not a requirement of law.
"There is already sufficient SANG provision in Bordon so that no further SANG is needed. It is a wholly unnecessary step, and why should you support a proposal that is wholly unnecessary that will imperil the working farm?
"There is already a vast area of public access countryside available nearby. There are the SANGs already there and Whitehill Town Council have afforded pedestrian access from the Mill Chase development to one of the SANGs.
"We don't need to imperil or threaten the farm. It is wholly unnecessary."
Headley Parish Council planning committee chairman Cllr Jim Wood stressed that Headley Parish Council "strongly objected" to any part of the farm being used for a SANG, and said its location within the site was "quite haphazard, and without a full understanding of how a working farm operates".
He added: "I do not understand why the farm was ever considered a suitable location for a SANG, unless it has been specifically chosen to facilitate proposed housing by Hampshire County Council.
"I do hope all our elected representatives who are here tonight will listen to us and not ignore the large number of us that feel quite strongly about keeping this lovely farm, which has been well maintained, so it does not get ruined by a development just so that dog walking and a dog toilet can be built in that space."
East Hampshire District Council planning committee chairman Cllr Anthony Williams, speaking in his capacity as a Headley ward councillor, objected to the size and location of the SANG, and the effect of the loss of agricultural land on the viability of the farm.
He felt the area of the proposed SANG – equivalent to nearly 14 football pitches – represented a "gross over-provision" of land for such a scheme.
Referring to Nick Jones, the tenant cattle farmer at Standford Grange Farm, he said he had received emails from Standford residents who were concerned about the proposal's "effect on the livelihood of a well-liked member of the community".
Commenting on the strength of local opposition to the SANG, he added: "To obtain so many objections from a small hamlet against the change of use of land is unprecedented in my experience.
"I trust that members will share my opinion that the over-large SANG on farmland is in the wrong location and should be refused. These views are shared with my fellow Headley ward councillor, Cllr Millard."
Five members of the committee voted in favour of the Miller Homes SANG scheme, with three against and two abstaining. Cllr Williams was not allowed to vote as he was deemed to have a prejudicial interest in the matter.
The 13-acre Mill Chase site was allocated for housing after the school closed in 2019, and the school buildings have already been demolished. Miller Homes' plan for 147 homes was approved unanimously, despite 61 objectors which again included Headley Parish Council.