A DATE has been set for a public inquiry into controversial plans to build more than 40 homes on former green belt land in Hampshire.

Pennyfarthing Homes lodged an appeal after its application to develop a site at Milford on Sea was rejected by New Forest District Council, which had received more than 200 objections to the scheme.

TV wildlife expert Chris Packham, who lives in the New Forest, also spoke out against the proposal.

Later it was revealed that the application would be examined at a public inquiry.

Now the council has announced that the inquiry, chaired by a government-appointed planning inspector, will be held at Lymington Town Hall on February 12. Pennyfarthing wants to build 42 properties on rural land near the village school.

An action group called School Lane and Manor Road (SLAM) has been formed to fight the proposal and aims to employ a planning consultant to represent it at the inquiry.

A SLAM spokesman said: “We are not against building houses in our village, we want to make sure they are the right houses in the right place. This green belt land was declassified to build affordable homes but the current application offers only a token amount.”

Pennyfarthing’s proposal to build 17 detached homes, eight semi-detached properties, 11 terraced homes and six flats, plus play areas, allotments and a cycle path, was rejected last summer.

The council claimed the percentage of affordable housing and low cost market housing was too low but Pennyfarthing defended its scheme.

A spokesman said: “In total 45 per cent of the proposed dwellings are affordable, comprising 14 per cent shared ownership, 14 per cent affordable rent and 17 per cent starter homes.

“The provision of starter homes has been accepted on other recent New Forest District Council housing sites and the new National Planning Policy Framework recognises these dwellings as affordable housing.

“The proposed development also provides significant community benefits, including allotments, a school drop-off/parking and the provision of land for sports pitches.”

Last night the company’s planning manager, Guy Peirson-Hagger, added: “We are hopeful of a positive outcome.”

The original plans and two sets of amendments sparked a total of 201 objections. Protesters included the local parish council and Milford Primary School, which said the proposed drop-off zone was too far from the school gates.

“A parent or carer needs to see their child has entered the school grounds safely,” it said.