Councillors have passed plans to build two houses in Chilbolton despite concerns of a “phantom study” and “riding roughshod” over the views of residents.

Plans had been submitted in 2018 for Fenstanton to be demolished and replaced with a new four bedroom dwelling, in addition to an additional three bedroom property. Concerns had been raised over the impact on neighbouring properties, as well as the possibility of additional bedrooms being introduced which would go against Chilbolton planning policies.

Following debate, the planning committee of Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) approved plans by seven votes to four.

Under the plans, the existing Fenstanton building would be removed, and replaced with two properties facing each other. The existing garden would be divided between the houses, while parking spaces would be introduced.

Nearby residents had raised objections to the plans, raising concerns over overlooking other properties and that it would be out of character with the surrounding area.

One neighbour, Graham Patterson, addressed the meeting and said the plans would make a “significant difference” to the area.

He said: “The thing that affects us most personally is that for 25 years we have had easy access from our kitchen dining room to the end of the patio nearest to the development and make full use of it during the warm months and we have grown up children with whom we spent a lot of time out there. Plot Two is going to appear extending out and effectively shadowing the patio.”

He added: “It is going to make a significant difference to the feel of the place and it will seem a little bit like dying behind the factory wall.”

He also raised concerns that some rooms in the properties would subsequently be converted into additional bedrooms.

He said: “We’re puzzled why plot one would have a window up in the attic room apart from the fact it does look as though it’s ready to be converted to the same sized building as plot two.”

The potential for conversion to bedrooms was queried with planning officials, with Paul Jackson, head of planning at TVBC, saying it was a “very dangerous” area to stray into.

He said: “You have a scheme before you, that’s what you’re considering, not what may or may not happen in the future.”

Cllr Christopher Ecclestone objected to this, noting concerns over the potential for a “phantom study”.

He said: “I would like to comment on is the ‘phantom study phenomenon’. I’ve been criticised by the planning department of TVBC before about this subject of bedrooms masquerading as studies and I would agree with Cllr [Tony] Burley that this looks to be a bedroom by any other name.

“While it’s been dismissed as a legitimate objection I think it is. I think that the council is being taken for fools by being told this is a study when it may not be and it is then in reach of the neighbourhood plan and the local plan on the subject of parking if this supposed study is not what it is purported to be.”

David Drew, who brought the plans to the Northern Area Planning Committee, also had reservations over the potential for additional bedrooms.

He said: “The size of the dwellings, in particular the number of potential number of bedrooms, I’m a little bit concerned that bedroom numbers are potentially planning judgement and not fact. This is a significant concern and it’s not in concordance with the neighbourhood development plan.

He added: “Development in all our communities must be right for them. This one clearly isn’t.”

Conflict with the community’s wishes was raised by Cllr Tony Ewer, a parish councillor for Chilbolton. He noted that Chilbolton had put together a neighbourhood development plan, which would have been voted on had the pandemic not postponed referendums last May. As such, it has no legal standing at present, but Test valley notes that published development plans “can be given significant weight”.

Cllr Ewer told the meeting: “As we all know, the neighbourhood plan has policies to support 2 and 3 bedroom homes and to refuse any larger homes for the next ten years. That follows a passing need survey where the village hasn’t got enough small houses and the village clearly doesn’t want any more big ones.

“There is also a policy in our neighbourhood plan that exceed those in the local plan because in a rural village like this with no transport then we have problems with traffic and parking. It’s [the neighbourhood plan] been approved by the inspector and Test Valley took a decision to give it significant weight and I disagree with your officer. This is not an emerging plan, it would have been through a referendum last May without Covid.”

Cllr David Coole said that the plan “is failing” on multiple parts of the Chilbolton Neighbourhood Development Plan.

He said: “This council has pushed long and hard to encourage rural parishes to develop NDPs yet here we are tonight riding roughshod over that if we approve this application. I am concerned the message this will send to all the rural parish councils in Test Valley that all the effort they’ve put in will be ignored in future on questionable grounds in my personal opinion.”

The agent for the developers disputed objections to the plans, saying that they believed it satisfied planning policies.

He said: “The scheme provides one net dwelling. It replaces one four bed unit with another four bed unit and I would point out that unit itself had four beds, four function rooms and two bathrooms so we’re not talking about a small unit here. Of course, we’re introducing one three bed unit as part of the new mix so we’re of the opinion that this proposal complies with the policies of the neighbourhood plan.

“In terms of potential for overlooking, firstly the boundaries are to be strengthened; secondly, as you have seen from your site visit, only the first floor at the rear is above ground level; and having regard to the boundary and vegetation, distances and view between properties it is considered the privacy of neighbours would be unaffected. The proposal would also not affect materially on overshadowing.”

Cllr Nick Lodge was also in support of the plans, saying: “I’m rather tired of all the objectors here simply using emotive opinions and presenting them as though they are facts. There are some very difficult and very factual planning considerations here. There’s a lot of analysis gone into the written documents which make things clear.

“In the questioning earlier, we were dealing with facts and we got some superb answers that I think show the neighbourhood plan is taken account of here and I feel that I shall be supporting the motion.”

Following debate, a vote was held on the plans. Cllrs Burley, Coole, Iris Andersen, and Nick Matthews voted against approval, with all others voting in favour. Therefore, the plans were approved.