ALTON Town Council has added its voice to the call for a full environmental impact assessment as part of the reserve matters application for a 280-home development on part of the former Lord Mayor Treloar Hospital site that threatens to destroy the delicate ecology of the meadows.

There have been 84 public comments registered with East Hampshire planners, at least one expressing concern over what appears to be confusion over the appropriate form of response.

There are 78 objections registered and the fear is that planners will take this as being against environmental impact assessment screening when it would seem they are against any development of the meadowland and, in fact, support the need for independent screening of the site.

Others have chosen to support the need for an assessment based on the environmental and ecological sensitivity and the impact of development on this rare chalk meadowland.

Preserve Treloar Meadows campaigners believe that both would appear to support the need for an environmental impact assessment but may not be accepted as such, paving the way for dismissal of the request for screening based on public objection.

According to a spokesman for developer Crest Nicholson, 300 people gave feedback following a public exhibition at the Assembly Rooms last Tuesday to show the latest plans for the site. The company is now looking to analyse and review the comments, which is expected to take a couple of weeks.

While the developer clearly believes an independent assessment is unnecessary, Preserve Treloar Meadows campaigners were on hand, in an adjacent room, with an exhibition of photography by Ginny Boxall, to demonstrate the range of flora and fauna on the meadows that would be impacted by the development.

At a meeting of Alton Town Council’s planning committee the following day, campaigner Steve Hunt urged councillors to recognise their duty of care for this “historic and special place”, pointing out that in order to do that they would require detailed environmental knowledge of the site.

And he added: “An environmental impact assessment will provide that and will inform the design, construction and future management of the site.

“Such a responsibility cannot be left to the developer. Nor can we trust environmental studies done by a company paid directly by the developer. What is needed is a completely independent environmental impact assessment funded by East Hampshire District Council.”

While aware that EHDC may be reluctant to spend money, given cuts to government support grants, Mr Hunt felt that the size of section 106 funding from the site should be able to support this cost.”

The Alton Society re-emphasised its view that the meadows shouldn’t be included in the development plan, both on landscape and ecological grounds, and supported the campaign to protect them and the need for an environmental assessment.

The Society suggested a compromise which would involve preserving the wildlife corridor on the western part of top meadow, abutting Ackender Wood, and reducing the number of houses while increasing the density of development on the less intrusive south-west corner of the site.

Furthermore, it finds the notion of a country park “totally in appropriate”, believing the meadows should retain their current natural status, with no parking, vehicular access or children’s play area which, members fear, would open it up to anti-social behaviour and vandalism.