Aldershot Manor Park Lobby for the Environment (AMPLE) is urging the government to "call in" a Rushmoor Council decision effectively agreeing that 128 homes can be built on the controversial site.

The only stumbling block was the design of the houses, which council officials have dismissed as "bland".

But if Barratt Southern Counties comes back with improved designs, and signs a legal agreement, it will get planning permission.

AMPLE is now hoping that the Government Office for the South-East will agree with claims that the council went against its own and national policy in reaching its decision.

And it will continue to argue its concerns about over-development at a planning appeal in July.

AMPLE member Johanna Lance said: "From the information we have, the decision of the committee was not the be all and end all.

"We will carry on with our preparations for the public inquiry and, hopefully, our input will swing the decision more in favour of the public interest."

Around 70 local residents packed into the council's Farnborough offices on June 12 for a highly charged planning meeting that, at times, threatened to boil over.

Vice-chairman Cllr Pat Devereux threatened to stop the meeting or throw out the public as both officers and councillors were frequently heckled from the gallery.

But following a debate that lasted nearly two hours it was the Manor Park residents who left with glum faces.

Barratt originally wanted to build 139 homes on the annexe but Rushmoor opposed the plans.

It claimed the development would be out of context and character with the surrounding area, lead to a loss of views from Church Lane East and do nothing to protect the Manor Park conservation area. AMPLE has similar worries.

The application was due to be thrashed out at the planning inquiry next month, but Barratt then submitted a new application for 128 homes which Rushmoor officials say addressed most of their concerns.

But that did not stop some of the councillors voicing their protests last week.

To loud applause from the public gallery, Cllr Colin Balchin condemned the proposals as "a blot on the landscape".

But others, including Aldershot councillor Sue Dibble, said the development should receive the council's full support.

"We need to live in the real world, not fantasy land," she said. "We need homes for our key workers. We also need homes for young people moving into the area to work, and to enable young people to stay in the area where their families are and where they were brought up."

Barratt architects are now drawing up new designs for the homes, which must be put out for public consultation and go back to Rushmoor's development control committee before the scheme can be approved.

Robert Barlow, spokesman for Barratt Southern Counties, said: "We are pleased that the principle and form of this development is now established and that the only question remaining is one of aesthetics.

"The appeal booking remains in place, although, in view of the council's decision, any hearing would only be asked to consider the aesthetics of the scheme."

AMPLE has handed a 516-signature petition to Rushmoor, stating its members have no confidence in the council's planning department.