DORSET councillors have again approved plans for almost 500 homes on farm and allotment land off the Blandford bypass.

The 5-1 decision was the same positive outcome for developers Lewis Wyatt (Construction) Ltd, as it was in October last year.

However the scheme is also being considered by the Secretary of State Michael Gove because of likely landscape impacts – with a decision expected by the end of the month.

The scheme has been widely backed in the Blandford area as possibly the last mass housing site in the area – which, in time, will also bring a new school and shops. But it also has its critics, arguing that valuable landscape should not be lost to housing.

The nearest parish council, Pimperne, had raised no objection to the plans with Blandford Forum town council also in favour.

The application had been brought back before councillors because of changes in the Government’s guidelines over housing targets and changes to the way Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, known now as National Landscape Areas, are treated.

Head of planning, Mike Garrity, told councillors that although the Secretary of State had asked to be informed of the council’s decision, the authority had not been instructed to do anything other than come to a conclusion in the normal way.

The application asked for immediate full planning consent for 150 homes with public open spaces with a request for outline, or in principle, agreement for 340 homes to follow in a scheme which is likely to include shops, commercial space, sports pitches, a primary school, a pub and cafe.

The site is to the north and east of the Blandford bypass and does include an area of protected landscape.

Dozens of public letters had been submitted, many of them objecting to building in open countryside, although there had also been support for the school, community facilities and 147 affordable homes, which will make up about 30per cent of the development.

Planning officers said that although the proposals do not comply with the area development plan the benefits outweigh the negative points.

The site is close to farmland where Dorset Council already has permission for a waste transfer station with the nearest homes at Letton Close, Letton Park, Bolney and Greenbanks.

The 37 hectares are bisected by Salisbury Road with part of the site within the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the rest currently used as allotments and farmland. Replacement allotments are to be provided as part of the development.

Speakers against the proposal included Richard Burden from the Cranborne Chase National Landscape area who said breaching the Pimperne Neighbourhood Plan and concreting over protected landscape did nothing for the principles of avoiding harm and enhancing the area.

He said the loss of good quality farmland was also significant.

Dorset Council for the Protection of Rural England speaker Rupert Hardy said the development would clearly harm the AoNB and would not ‘protect and enhance’ the area as the guidelines said it should.

“There is no need to build this development.. we should recognise and value this landscape” he said, arguing that the latest housing figures meant there was no need for the homes in the area.

North Dorsetl MP Simon Hoare, who is a Local Government Minister, said he had come to a planning committee for the first time since 2015 to object to granting an application - reminding councillors that the proposal was contrary to current policies as it stands and did nothing to enhance the AoNB.

He also reminded the council that the area now had a five-year land supply although it now only needed a four-year supply.

He urged councillors to reject the application, or at the very least to defer a decision until the Secretary of State had come to a conclusion about the scheme.