Controversial plans to build nine houses in the Whitchurch Conservation Area are set to be considered by the town council tonight, as residents step up their campaign against the plans.

Nine houses have been proposed for land adjacent to Church Street at The Lawn, the former home of noted judge Lord Denning. Concerns have been raised over the impact the development would have on the conservation area, as well as on the environment and traffic through the town.

Whitchurch Town Council’s Development Committee will review the plans this evening, and decide whether or not to make an objection to the proposals.

Residents of Church Street have led a campaign against the plans, which a representative of the group saying the application “doesn’t seem to have any merit at all”.

Richard Whitehead said that the group is “quite well-organised” and concerned over a number of issues, particularly the building of new housing in a conservation area. Whitchurch’s conservation area notes a number of key contributors to the character of the area, including open space, gaps and trees, which they believe will be adversely affected by the proposals.

In planning documents, the developers have said that their plans will “enhance” the site, and that they will cause no harm to the ecology or character of the conservation area. Responding to concerns, they said the land “is not a policy designated important open space and should not be considered” as such.

Richard disagrees with this assessment, saying: “Although that area is not accessible to the public, there’s a word in the application: ‘under-utilised land’. Well, it’s not under-utilised by the wildlife. It’s occupied by the trees, it is a wild area and we’re constantly being told the key to solving the climate issues is rewilding and maintaining open spaces.

“Just because the space is open doesn’t mean it’s unused. It’s not unused at all.”

He added: “What’s the point of local authorities having conservation areas if they then let people build in them? They’re established for a reason. It’s about maintaining that wild area.”

He said the group was pleased that its message had been taken up by residents across the town, saying they had been concerned other residents wouldn’t be interested.

Richard said: “Our concern was always that people in other parts of the town would think this was just us trying to protect our nice views, and it’s absolutely not that, it’s about maintaining the conservation area.”

He said that the group acknowledged the need for new houses, but said that the Church Street site was not suitable.

He said: “We’ve got two quite big developments in Whitchurch, there are huge schemes at Oakley and on the outskirts of Basingstoke, we’re not putting our heads in the sand about the need for new houses. But this is nine houses, none of them affordable. There is no community benefit here.”

The campaigners say that as well as other residents, they have another ally in their campaign – Lord Denning himself. The group found an article from the Guardian in 1997, where the former Master of the Rolls discusses his anger at the “impertinence” of a proposal from Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council to build a carpark on a patch of land, near to where the houses are planned today.

“It’s clear that at some point Lord Denning had plans to build on the land itself but that was in the 80s,” said Richard, “and this [Guardian article] is sometime later. He seems to have changed his mind rather dramatically about that and did love this wild garden and clearly loved his trees.

“It’s clear that he loved it and he would have been absolutely appalled to think that his grandson was going to build all over it.”

The group is anxiously awaiting the outcome of tonight’s meeting, where they urged councillors to reject the plans.

Richard said: “We would urge Whitchurch Town Council to oppose it with all force, and hope if it gets to Basingstoke and Deane that they would see it is of no community benefit and only reduce the character of a very pleasant, historic town centre.”

The plans will be considered alongside others at a meeting of Whitchurch Town Council at 7:30pm tonight (February 15).

Paul Denning, who the plans have been prepared for, declined to comment.