People living close to Fleet town centre were celebrating just before Christmas after a government inspector threw out controversial plans for a 42-flat complex on land behind the Oatsheaf pub in Crookham Road.

But now the applicants have lodged another application with Hart Council and planning chief Ron Percival is advising councillors to approve it.

Furious residents thought they had won the long-running battle when government planning inspector Terry Phillimore threw out the flats scheme in November.

He warned the development would cause “significant harm” and a loss of privacy to nearby residents.

Hart refused permission to knock down the coach depot, plus two houses off Crookham Road, to make way for the three-storey development comprising 42 one and two-bedroom flats in May.

Councillors decided the development’s bulk and massing would have resulted in a cramped appearance and overdevelopment of the site.

They also warned the height and scale of the development would overlook neighbouring homes and the plans did not include enough parking places.

But the applicants appealed and the issue was thrashed out before Mr Phillimore during a hearing held in October.

He said there were a number of positive points about the scheme.

“The development will not in my opinion appear unduly cramped,” Mr Phillimore’s report admitted.

“The existing coach shelter will be demolished to allow for the access to be widened and provide an area of parking.

“I consider that the trees will provide an effective screen to the building in views from Calthorpe Park.

“I do not consider that it would be visually intrusive to a harmful degree.

“The development will not adversely affect the character and appearance of the locality and will not be visually intrusive to neighbouring properties.”

Mr Phillimore also said he believed there would be no significant traffic or safety implications resulting from the proposal.

“The site is very close to Fleet town centre and appears to me to be in a sustainable location,” states his report.

However, the inspector warned the windows at the second floor level of the proposed flats would overlook neighbouring homes, significantly intruding on their privacy.

Dismissing the appeal, Mr Phillimore concluded: “I have found that the proposal would cause significant harm to the living conditions of adjoining occupiers by way of loss of privacy and fails to make appropriate provision for recreation.

“These findings are not outweighed by my favourable conclusions on the proposal in relation to the issues raised or the gain in residential accommodation that would result from the development.”

But now residents face another battle when Hart’s development control committee discusses the latest scheme on January 22. The new plans are for 40 one and two-bedroom flats with revised access and parking.

Hart councillors on the Fleet and Church Crookham planning advisory group have already raised objections, warning of their “serious concern” about extra cars using “the busiest road junction in the district”.

Hart has also received six objection letters, warning of a loss of light, privacy, trees and wildlife, increased traffic, inadequate car parking and an unsympathetic design.

Mr Percival said the only difference between the two applications was that the latest did not have two flats in the roof of the complex facing Fraynes Court.

“I believe that the inspector’s concerns about overlooking have been overcome,” states his report.

Mr Percival is urging councillors to approve the application subject to legal agreements.

These include the applicants paying for improved transport, leisure, open space and children’s play facilities.

Ten of the flats would have to be classed as ‘affordable’ — probably housing association owned.

Residents can listen to the latest debate in the council chamber, Harlington Way, Fleet, on January 22 from 7pm.