THE final word on plans for development at an allotment site in King’s Somborne has yet to be said, civic chiefs have claimed.

Town bosses said a Neighbourhood Plan, which is currently been drawn up, could stop future development at the site of the 100-year-old allotments in the village centre.

However, they confirmed that the site is part of Test Valley Borough Council’s Local Plan and developers have the right to put a planning application forward.

The news comes after the Diocese of Winchester, which owns the allotments, put them up for sale, sparking the resignation of a licensed lay minister in King’s Somborne.

As previously reported, the diocese said that given its need to resource the work of its parishes, and the local authority’s need to provide much-needed housing, it believed that the proposed sale of the allotments will help to contribute to the council’s target for new homes.

The diocese also said it will explicitly require as a pre-condition of sale that any developer of the site provides suitable alternative allotment space.

But now King’s Somborne councillor Tony Ward said the Neighbourhood Plan could save the plots.

“If the Neighbourhood Plan was issued I know that these allotments would be identified as green space and therefore will not be built on. It is not going to be easy to find an alternative or better site. It is up to developers to do that and they have to demonstrate that. There is a long long way for them to go.”

Cllr Nick Adams-King, planning portfolio holder at Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC), added: “As the allotments are within the settlement boundary of the village, this means we would need to consider any planning application put forward by the diocese against the Local Plan, National Planning Policy and the emerging King’s Somborne Neighbourhood Plan and also consider the specific protection afforded allotments.

“In order for development to be approved any application will need to satisfy each of these plans.”

He also confirmed the allotment site is included in TVBC’s Local Plan as part of the village settlement.

“But it is simply not designated for any potential development whatsoever. The parish council is in the process of drawing up a Neighbourhood Plan which will identify the preferred locations for any future housing developments.”

When asked what impact will this have on the sale of the allotments and what will happen next, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Winchester said: “The site is included within the council’s Local Plan as it falls within the village settlement, and therefore is eligible as a site for potential housing development, subject to the usual planning processes.”

As previously reported, Sue Holligan, who has been a licensed minister at St Peter and St Paul’s Church in King’s Somborne for the past 22 years will hand her licence back to the Bishop of Winchester at the end of this month, following the diocese’s decision to sell the allotments.

The diocese said it is required to make best use of its assets in order to ensure it can continue to support all its areas of engagement in the local and wider community.