Chilbolton villagers are up in arms after their ex-councillor submitted plans to build homes on a smallholding.

Andrew Gibson, who sat on Hampshire County Council until May this year, has applied to build seven houses on land at Test Valley Farm. Part of its land was controversially included within the village’s settlement boundary, making it much easier to build houses there.

Residents and council officials have raised a number of concerns over the plans, which follow a number of planning breaches in the past by the former councillor.

Concerned Chilbolton resident Liz Blakemore told the Advertiser: “These plans are just horrible, and will blight the area and be a decimation of nature.”

Andrew Gibson did not respond to the Advertiser’s request for comment, but a planning statement submitted said the plans would comply with rules to “integrate, respect and complement the character of the area”.

The land at Test Valley Farm forms part of an agricultural smallholding, with a number of restrictions attached to the use of the land. In 2012, Andrew Gibson built an annex at the house “without consent”, and subsequently gained retrospective planning permission for it.

Then, in 2018, he stepped down as Hampshire County Council’s (HCC) cabinet member for culture, recreation and countryside amid controversy after saying he had been in breach of conditions reserving the property for use by those working in agriculture, forestry or equestrian activities for over 10 years, during an application to relax the restrictions.

The new application seeks to build seven properties on part of the farmland within the Chilbolton settlement boundary. However, residents have said the plans would “blight the area”, with 49 objections to the plans.

“It’s not about NIMBYism,” Liz said. “The village would love to have affordable housing in the right places, especially for young families or those wanting to downsize, but these aren’t suitable.”

Concerns have been raised by residents over the number of houses on the land, a view shared by Test Valley Borough Council’s (TVBC) landscape officer.

Noting that the application had reduced the number of houses from nine to seven, they said the site was still “too dense”, with the plans appearing “to have maximised the size of the units”.

The impact on nature has also been raised, with Chilbolton resident Nigel Palmer telling the Advertiser: “There are bats flying around here, with birds and insects in the trees and hedgehogs roaming the site.

“It is extremely disappointing, and will destroy woodland with protected trees.”

An ecological report carried out for the application details a number of ways that the planned development would seek to enhance biodiversity on site, including new bat and bird boxes and the maintenance of certain hedges and trees.

However, TVBC’s ecologist lodged an objection to the plans, saying they currently “will result in a net loss in biodiversity on site”, will have “adverse impacts on protected species” and don’t ‘fully incorporate’ the recommendations of the ecological report commissioned for the site.

The impact on human neighbours has also been raised, with Liz saying the new buildings “won’t engage with village life.”

Nigel added that the single lane access road to the site has “no space to go around,” adding: “The three properties on the road would be incredibly affected.”

The developers say the plans will “generate a small number of traffic movements in the peak periods, which is not considered will have any detrimental impact to highway safety.”

The plans are currently open for consideration by TVBC. If you would like to have your say, search the council’s planning site with the reference: 21/02241/FULLN