Whitchurch residents have reacted strongly to “totally unsuitable” plans that would see houses built at the home of one of the town’s most famous sons.

Mr & Mrs Paul Denning have applied to build nine houses on land at The Lawn, as well as associated landscaping and other building work. The houses will be adjacent to Church Street, and located near to the River Test.

Residents raised concerns over the impact the plans would have on the conservation area, as well as traffic on Church Street.

The Lawn is the former home of Lord Denning, one of the most notable judges of the 20th century. The site lies within the house’s estate, and has for some time been considered for housing, with plans being drawn up in the 1980s but were not progressed. The latest plans were submitted on November 23, following a pre-application submission.

The architects behind the proposal, Dust Architecture, say that they believe the scheme, if approved, “will enhance the currently underutilised existing site, through providing attractive and well- designed architecture that responds to and complements the local context.”

However, this was disputed by Claire Ryan, who noted that the houses would be built within the Whitchurch Conservation Area. She said the plans were “totally unsuitable” for the site, and that the current proposals included a “too dense plan of houses, which are inappropriately designed for the local area”.

“I couldn't object more strongly to this,” she added.

Concerns over the conservation area were also raised in the pre-application submission, with Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council (BDBC) noting that the area is categorised as an “important open space” and that it is likely development on the site “will cause harm” to nearby listed buildings, and the wider conservation area.

In response to these concerns, the architects said that the site “is not a policy designated important open space and should not be considered” as such. They added that the open space viewable by the general public is “a view of the boundary wall with trees behind”, with any other visual impacts “not considered to be major”.

Residents were also concerned about the nearby road, with Alexander Wilkins saying the plans would add “considerable further strain” on Church Street, while another was concerned access to the site would be “dangerous” due to the bend in the road.

The plan’s transport assessment sought to address these concerns, calculating that the extra traffic would amount to two per cent increase, while the visibility from the junction met the limits set by Hampshire County Council. As such, the document stated there will be no “material impact” on transport.

Another public body did raise concerns, however, with Natural England saying that as submitted, “the application could have potential significant effects” on the River Test and Solent. In particular, they said that more information was required to ensure the site would be nitrate neutral, and would protect the habitat of the River Test from poor water quality and recreational activities.

The requirement for nitrate neutrality is based on a 2018 court ruling, which led Natural England to advise planners that those in the Solent catchment area, like Whitchurch, should not add excess nitrates into the environment to prevent eutrophication. This is where nitrogen allows algae to grow rapidly and starve marine life of oxygen and light.

An ecological assessment for the site disputes this, however, saying that such concerns are “not significant.”

The plans will be considered by Whitchurch Town Council’s Development Committee on February 15, with public consultation closing the day after.