TEST Valley Borough Council has been handed a three-quarters of a million pound reward for building new homes.

New figures show how the New Homes Bonus, which is given to local authorities in return for planning permission for new residential homes, has been distributed and our borough council has pulled more cash from the windfall than almost all the other Hampshire councils.

The council was given £788,648, in return for 610 new homes.

The bonus is the Government’s attempt to encourage council planners to accept new developments.

But in areas such as Hampshire, where there is acute pressure on open spaces from developers, it has been criticised as a “bribe” to cash-strapped councils.

The bonus is the coalition government’s replacement for the previous system of annual housing grants.

Councils are able to spend the cash on improving local services, such as building playgrounds or bus subsidies, or even on reducing council tax.

The latest grant brings the total award since the scheme began beyond £15m.

A spokesman for Test Valley said: “The New Homes Bonus funds are a direct result of recent housing developments in Test Valley and in particular the council’s success in providing new affordable homes.

“Since April 2012 more than 140 new affordable homes have been built exceeding our own target. This makes us one of the most successful authorities at providing affordable homes.

“Improving access to a decent home is one of the council’s key priorities.

“This funding is used for projects having clear links to community development or that enhance local facilities.”

In a statement to MPs, Housing Minister Mark Prisk said: “For years, developers found themselves at loggerheads with communities unconvinced that their plans for growth would benefit them. But the New Homes Bonus is turning this around.

“Local people are able to see the rewards of new developments in their area – paving the way for thousands of much-needed, locally supported homes to be delivered across the country.”

Basingstoke and Deane has received £943,717 for 725 new homes built.