A controversial development of 750 houses on a site in Northern Chippenham, mainly of undeveloped green fields, was approved in principle at a Wiltshire Council strategic planning meeting yesterday.

Friends of Birds Marsh, a campaign group wanting to protect the woodland immediately north of the application site, spoke in protest at the meeting in County Hall, Trowbridge.

Spokesman Martin Naylor told the meeting in County Hall, Trowbridge, the application conflicted with preserving a valued landscape.

He said: “This will be a step along the way to change a market town by the river into a large dormitory town. When aspiring to a low carbon economy, how is this sustainable?”

Originally plans included management of the wood by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, but a promise of new woodland facilities was removed after Birds Marsh was granted village green status, which developers say prevents any management by law.

Nick Watts, councillor for Chippenham Hardenhuish, said yesterday: “I have been appalled at the Friends of Birds Marsh's smugness in their victory. They have lost the plot.”

One of the conditions of approval is that the freehold of Birds Marsh is transferred to Wiltshire Council to secure its future maintenance.

But Coun Watts voted against approval, saying the development was too large and he would like to see a maximum of 650 houses.

He said: “There is very little in this scheme to please the residents I represent.

"There will be existing residents walled in by three-storey housing, and Birds Marsh View will have to be renamed because the view will be lost.”

The outline application, submitted in February 2012, generated 105 letters of objection and three letters of support.

Plans for the 48.2ha development next to Hill Corner Road aim to bring 750 properties, up to 12,710 sqm of employment land, a new primary school, public open space and a local centre which may include a shop, doctor’s/dental surgery and community facility.

The scheme will also be served by a new main road link running between the A350 Malmesbury Road and the B4069 Maud’s Heath Causeway.

Coun Watts said: “I believe in reinvigorating our town centre and this scheme is disinterested in that.”

He added there were already 62 spare places at nearby St Paul’s Primary School but insufficent secondary school places.

Peter Stacey, director of Turley Associates, the developer’s agent, said it would be an opportunity for economic growth and would reduce lorries going through the town centre.

The land is owned by the North Chippenham Consortium, made up of Barratt Developments, Persimmon Homes and Heron Land.

At least 2,625 new houses have to be built in Chippenham over the next 12 years, according to the modified Wiltshire Core Strategy.

This site was included in the draft as a strategically important site to build on, but since the document was inspected, all such suggested sites have been removed and will be chosen again from scratch.

Tony Peacock, who campaigned against a development at Showell, proposed the decision should be deferred until after consultation on where extra housing should be delivered, which only began on Monday.

Mr Peacock said: “If you pass this today, you are pre-allocating about a third of the necessary houses.”

But Wiltshire Council case officer Simon Smith said: “It is emphatically not premature to decide it as it stands.”

Fred Westmoreland, councillor for Amesbury West, who voted for approval, said: “This has been going on since 1987. It is going to happen. Let’s do it now.”

It was passed by nine votes for and two against.