A masterplan to shape a development of 1,500 homes on land north-west of town took a step closer to completion this week.
Harborough District Council’s five-member executive committee recommended the document for approval at a special meeting on Monday.
Full council will now have the final say on whether to approve the masterplan at a meeting on October 7.
The plan has been put together by the council in conjunction with developers with interests at the Airlfield Farm site. The authority wants to avoid developers coming up with individual schemes for different parts of the land which could end up becoming disjointed.
But it has drawn criticism from residents, whose concerns around flooding, traffic, and the impact on the town’s infrastructure were echoed by many who spoke at Monday’s meeting.
The committee heard the number of homes had been reduced from 1,800 to 1,500 in the latest version of the plan, with a lower density of 25 properties per hectare, instead of 30.
Speaking at the meeting, opposition Liberal Democrat group leader Phil Knowles said residents were deeply concerned that calls to limit the development to 1,000 homes had been ignored.
But Cllr Phil King, who holds the planning portfolio on the Conserative council, said building 1,500 homes guaranteed the developers would have to pay for community infrastructure such as a new primary school, link road and a multi-purpose community building.
He said: “If you only have 1,000 houses, you don’t get the infrastructure.
“There won’t be the funding. It may not be what people want to hear, but that’s the economics of the situation.
“We have a responsibility as members of this council to make sure that these things [community infrastructure] go ahead.”
Cllr Knowles also expressed concern that the meeting was going ahead before the results of an independent inquiry into the decision by the council’s previous leadership to overhaul a major planning policy document are published. He warned that the result of the review could have major implications for the masterplan.
But council leader Blake Pain said there was a danger that further delays could force developers to submit costly planning appeals on their schemes which had been refused by the authority while the masterplan was drawn up.
A number of requests raised by residents and community groups who spoke at the meeting will be added to the masterplan before it goes before full council.
These include identifying how cycle paths proposed for the site will link to routes in the town, more information about when the multi-purpose community building will open and the need for the primary school to be completed before year six of the project.
Fears raised by residents in Spinney Hill, at the top of Lubenham Hill, that landscaping on that side of the site was not due to start until year nine of the project were also addressed.
Carl Bedford, of the Old Union Canal Society, who complained that a road bridge planned over the Grand Union Canal would spoil the heritage of their mooring site near The Woodlands, was told it would have to remain because the developers could not reach an agreement to buy any of the land either side.
Speaking afterwards, Cllr King said: “We have listened to local people during the process and I feel we are in a better position now with less houses and a lower density which will bring more character to the site. Of course, it is difficult to satisfy everyone and we understand this has been a testing issue, but it is important the infrastructure required to support these homes is delivered and the masterplan will help achieve this.
“We want to make this site a highly desirable place for future residents to live, work and play.”