PROTESTERS are celebrating victory in the first round of a battle to prevent a huge housing estate being built in an Aldershot conservation area.

They have persuaded Rushmoor Council planners' to turn down an application to demolish a group of disused classrooms at Manor Park.

The objectors believe the decision will put a big dent in Barratt Southern Counties' plans for the land.

Twelve residents living near the former Farnborough College of Technology annexe site in Church Lane East sent protest letters to the council.

Among their arguments were that the buildings should be retained for communal-educational use, and that the conservation area should remain unchanged.

Council planning officers said in a report that the buildings, built in the 1950s, should be demolished because they had become almost derelict.

They pointed out that the buildings had already suffered fire damage, and that further vandalism would create an eyesore.

But their recommendation was thrown out by the development control committee which decided the buildings should stay put.

The decision has delighted AMPLE - an action group set up to fight Barratt's plans for the 6.4-acre site.

According to the group, the developer wants to build more than 130 homes on the land which it recently bought from the college.

Keith Holland, Rushmoor Council's planning chief, said later that he had no idea what would become of the buildings.

He feared they would become vandalised because Barratt's - which could appeal against the decision - had no use for them.

Mr Holland also described as "pure speculation" residents' claims the more than 130 homes were earmarked for the land.

"We haven't even received a planning application yet," he said.