A CONTROVERSIAL Freshwater housing application has been approved despite being branded a 'crime against the environment' by objectors.

The major development of Birch Close, which will see 44 properties built on a green field, was approved by the Isle of Wight Council's planning committee yesterday (Tuesday) after nearly three hours of debate.

Residents had objected strongly to the application, with concerns over sewage, the site's potential for flooding, current wildlife and ecology risks.

One objector, speaking at the meeting, said it would be a crime against the environment if the committee approved the application.

Freshwater Parish Council was among those objecting, referencing parts of its neighbourhood plan as reasons why the development should be refused and that it does not meet local housing needs.

Local ward councillor, and member of the planning committee, Chris Jarman said the field was the last green meadow between Colwell and Freshwater and he had been questioned by residents whether the planning committee would 'drive a stake through the heart of all that was dear to them'.

However, committee members said the site was developable, being landlocked on three sides and building onto a ribbon development.

Cllr Geoff Brodie said issues with the environment, ecology and biosphere could be discussed but he saw no planning reason to object to the application.

It at least provided affordable houses, he said, for families who may otherwise be homeless.

The first vote of the evening, to approve the application but make it subject to the planning officers' 28 conditions while adding a footpath for easy access to the village centre, was rejected after a casting vote by chair Cllr Michael Lilley.

Six councillors voted for and six against.

A second vote to refuse the application — on grounds it would negatively impact the green infrastructure, ecology and wildlife — was rejected with only four councillors in favour but eight against.

A third vote was then taken to grant planning permission — with an improved landscaping condition, the footpath and the 14 affordable properties being solely for rent — was passed by seven votes to five.