DEVELOPERS have lost their battle to build 260 new homes on land off Hitches Lane, Fleet -for the time being.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott told Hart this week that following a public inquiry he is refusing the scheme put forward by Berkeley Strategic Land for the houses, sports pitches and a riverside footpath. He has confirmed the Government inspector's view that it would be premature pending the new Hart Plan due out this autumn.

That allocates the land as a reserve site in the event of Queen Elizabeth Barracks, Wakeford Copse and other MOD land failing to produce enough homes before 2006.

Hart spokesman Martin Pendlebury, who was Hart's main witness at the inquiry, said the Government had agreed with the Hart view that to give permission was premature and would be contrary to the policies of the new plan.

Last year's Vice-Chairman, Coun. David Simpson, said he was delighted. "We should be able to protect this site even longer as we now appear to have sufficient land supply without using this reserve site," he added.