CONTROVERSIAL plans to build a housing estate on the Manor Park Annexe look set to go ahead after a major U-turn by council officials.

Rushmoor's planning department originally opposed the application from Barratt Southern Counties to build 139 homes on the former Farnborough College of Technology site.

The authority argued the development would be "out of scale and markedly out of character" with the surrounding area and was due to argue its case at a planning inquiry in July.

But now that Barratt has amended its plans — reducing the scheme by just 11 homes — council officers are recommending that the project be approved.

The blueprint will go before Rushmoor's development control committee on June 12 with councillors having the final say.

If they approve the development, Barratt has confirmed it will drop the inquiry — saving itself and Rushmoor thousands of pounds.

But the about-face has angered residents living near Manor Park who feel they have been betrayed by the council.

Lee Dawson, chairman of Aldershot Manor Park Lobby for the Environment, described the council's new stance as "unbelievable".

Rushmoor intended to fight the original application at a planning inquiry starting on July 24.

The authority argued the development was out of scale and character with the surrounding area.

Officers were also concerned about the road and parking network, feared the design would create areas of "anti-social behaviour" and argued the proposed scheme did not provide enough affordable housing.

But now they have told residents that their differences with Barratt have "narrowed significantly".

The Planning Inspectorate has confirmed in a separate letter that the new plans for 128 homes are being recommended for approval.

Johanna Lance, of Upper St Michael's Road, fumed: "There have been no amendments to anything that affects the public concerns, such as the open space, views, the townscape, the landscape and the effects on the park itself.

Nobody within Rushmoor's planning department was available for comment as the News went to press.

However, Rushmoor Cabinet member David Clifford sympathises with the residents and is hopeful the development control committee will reject the latest plans.

He said the officers have revised their stance because the project now meets government guidance on density and parking.

However, he criticised the Dutch-style layout of the scheme as "Legoland design".

"On the application for 139 homes we have a very good case and officers are confident they are going to win that appeal," said Cllr Clifford.

"They are not confident they are going to win on the new application for 128 homes and that's what guides the officers."

But he added: "They have been wrong in the past and I think they are wrong this time.

"We have gone against officers' recommendations in the past and won in an appeal.

"I don't think we should be put off by costs."

AMPLE will be trying to garner more support for its cause with a rally within the former playing field site in Manor Park at 10am tomorrow.