A COMMUNITY centre hosted what is believed to be its largest ever attendance as campaigners ramped up their opposition to plans for up to 600 properties and a 62-bed care home.

More than 300 residents packed into the main hall at Merley Social Centre, with many standing and others listening outside, as discussions took place over Richborough Estates' submitted planning application for land north of Merley.

The meeting, organised by the Save Land North of Merley action group, began with a presentation by chair Frank Ahern outlining the developer’s submitted scheme and offering guidance on ways to object to the proposals.

Mr Ahern said: "This was a hugely successful meeting.

“There is a real passion in local people to see justice done for this area, and a vigorous determination to fight for victory in the campaign, however many months or years that takes.”

The meeting welcomed an engaged and lively audience, with much of the focus concentrating on the increased congestion likely to be created by this development, one of five being currently being built or planned for the closely surrounding areas of Wimborne.

An ePetition, hosted on the BCP Council website, secured more than one hundred signatures in its first day and will run until September 24.

If approved, the development will include new access roads, public open space, allotments and play areas to accompany the housing.

Robert Mitchell, Richborough Estates' senior regional manager for the south west, told the Echo: “The submission of planning application marks a huge milestone in the history of this development. It also marks the culmination of extensive stakeholder communication we have already carried out and pro-active engagement with Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council.

“Ultimately, we believe this application could have a major and positive impact on the social, economic and environmental fabric of the area. It could not only provide new housing but also open up access to the River Stour which links the wider Stour Valley Initiative and a whole range of new parkland features throughout the site.

“We now look forward to the further engagement process with the local community and local authority that will follow our planning submission.”

Residents have until Tuesday, September 24, to submit their comments on the planning application.