RESIDENTS are outraged that their historic village could be threatened by a major new housing development.
Plans have been proposed for 140 new homes on a piece of land in Wickham known as The Glebe, owned by the Church of England.
A campaign called Hands off The Glebe has been set up amid fears the scheme will have a massive impact on traffic congestion, drainage and wildlife.
Campaign spokeswoman Zoe Kroon said: 'This is a drastic, hastily prepared and thoughtless proposal. The Church of England will gain about 10m from the sale of the land and this is just a way of filling the coffers of a cash-strapped church.'
She said it contradicted plans to protect The Glebe drawn up by Wickham Parish Council in consultation with villagers and which were subsequently adopted by Winchester City Council.
Mrs Kroon said: 'We feel a very strong sense of betrayal at the hands of the church.
'The village church of St Nicholas has played a central role as a social and religious focus for the community.
'The Glebe field is known as the village field and is used for the village fete and other events. The traffic in the village is already a massive problem and the Southwick Road is a blackspot for accidents. Also there's a huge amount of wildlife in the field including deer and several beautiful old trees.'
At a public meeting villagers and councillors agreed that The Glebe field should be protected.
Former councillor Michael Saddler-Forster said: 'If any new homes are built the consensus seems to be that they should be to the north of the village and not to the south or east.
'Certainly residents and the council are in agreement that The Glebe field should be protected.'
A spokesman for the Portsmouth Diocese of the Church of England said: 'We understand that residents were consulted and that it was agreed that 140 new houses need to be built.
'Our land agents made us aware that the council was looking to build houses so we offered the land for consideration.
'We believe that houses will be of benefit to the local community and to the diocese and the plans that have been drawn up are for a very attractive development which has a good amount of open and recreational land and plenty of room for the village fete and firework displays.'