A MONTESSORI in Whitchurch has been given permission to relocate to a private woodland despite overwhelming objections from residents.

Whitchurch Montessori Nursery and Forest School, which currently operates from a temporary facility at the Church Rooms, has been allowed to relocate into a purpose-designed building on the land at the corner of Wells Lane and Park View.

The Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council decided to approve the application in a development committee meeting with six councillors voting in favour, while three councillors voted against the proposal.

A planning application submitted by the nursery had faced significant objections from neighbours who raised traffic and parking concerns.

The application received 224 public comments – 148 objecting and 76 supporting the relocations of the Montessori.

Whitchurch Town Council, which gave a green light to the application, had recommended that the quality of comments should be considered and not the number.

Speaking as a visitor at the development committee meeting, Whitchurch Town Council deputy mayor Cllr Sharon Egan said: “The way to evaluate responses to consultations is not by counting heads. It is necessary to consider the relevance of each comment and its significance to the application.”

Michaela Pyle, a resident who objected to the application, said the whole ecosystem in the region will be affected by clearance to car park, a building, a high-metal fence and the presence of about 40 children playing outdoor every day.

Ms Pyle added: “Generations of Whitchurch families have visited this lovely woodland since the railways closed in 1964. Our children play here under the trees where we see an abundance of wildlife.

“This site is essential to wildlife, wellbeing and mental and physical welfare. If we are serious about tackling climate emergencies, it makes no sense to add extra pressure to existing woodlands and wildlife.

“Whitchurch Town Council has refused to listen to residents. In its consultancy comment, and in its uninformed speech, it has failed to understand all relevant issues. If this proposal goes ahead, it will set a dangerous precedent. The 148 objections clearly show how much our residents value this woodlands site. We must preserve it for our children now and in the future.”

The planning officer, who recommended the application be approved, said the new facility will not generate additional traffic as the current Montessori Nursery operates very close to the application site.

Although the site is used by the public, the officer said it cannot be a material planning reason to reject the application as it is private land.