Controversial plans for 35 custom-designed homes on meadow land next to Boreham Mill, Warminster, were given the green light by Wiltshire Council yesterday.

Councillors at the Western Area Board gave outline planning permission to developers HPH Housing and HAB Housing on the condition that homes were no more than two storeys high.

Campaigners to save the meadow said the development would damage wildlife, including a population of water voles, grass snakes, newts, otters, and the ecology of the River Wylye.

They also said that the site would be liable to flooding, even though its flood risk rating was downgraded by the Environment Agency in 2010.

The plans were approved despite 309 residents signing an on-line petition and 52 letters, also from residents, in opposition to the proposals.

There were four letters in support of the development but only two were from local residents.

Councillors acknowledged that the development had been an election issue in Warminster in 2013.

Town councillor Paul Macdonald, who was attending to observe, said before the meeting: “I came top of the poll at the town council elections for the East ward in 2013 and opposing the development was one of my key promises.”

Warminster Council had previously given the proposals its support. 

Cllr Sue Fraser, representing Warminster Council at the meeting, told planners: “Warminster is a growing town and up to 1,700 new homes have been planned mainly in the west.

“The building of 35 houses in the east is not a big issue.”

Mike Roberts, managing director of HAB, said: “This is a high quality development and there are no issues around the coalescence of Bishopstrow into Warminster as the village is a quarter of a mile away.

“We will be consulting widely with the people of Warminster before building starts.”

But Mike Perry, chairman of Bishopstrow Parish Meeting, speaking afterwards, said: “I’m horrified. They did not take on board our arguments in terms of the flood risk and ecology.”

He also said that he also felt that the development would threaten the identity of Bishopstrow.