MORE than half the members of a council planning committee abstained from voting as plans for 32 new homes in Amersham moved a step closer to being given permission.

Proposals to build 22 houses, two maisonettes and a block of eight flats on land between the Stanley Hill campus of Amersham and Wycombe College and Lincoln Park had been met with strong opposition from residents.

Chiltern District Council's planning committee raised a number of concerns when they discussed the application on Thursday, August 28.

After being advised that, legally, there were no sufficient grounds to reject the proposals, members voted to go with planning officers' recommendations to give conditional permission subject to a legal agreement being made and a bat survey being carried out.

But five of the 12 committee's members were unable to attend the meeting - and of the seven remaining, only three voted in favour of the proposals and the remaining four refusing to vote.

It was the second time councillors had considered plans to develop the site for housing, having turned down the first application in December.

The council's development control manager Richard Turnbull said property developer Croudace Homes had managed to overcome all 11 of the reasons for refusal committee members came up with on that occasion.

Councillors raised concerns over traffic, saying extra cars parked on the new estate would exacerbate existing gridlock problems caused by parents dropping their children off at the College and the adjacent Amersham School.

Cllr John Gladwin said: "Trying to get across all the traffic coming out of Amersham College is going to be horrendous. It really will be very difficult - people will get very frustrated with that."

Cllr John Wertheim added: "I'm concerned about the safety of this site and about the on-site parking.

"This isn't a car park, this is a residential development."

A hockey club is also looking for a base to build new pitches and had earmarked the site for possible development.

Cllr Pam Appleby, who is not a member of the planning committee but spoke at the meeting, said the housing plans should not be considered until an application for the hockey pitches is submitted.

But Mr Turnbull said each application had to be judged on its own merits and potential submissions for a hockey pitch were not a valid reason for refusing permission to build the new homes.

A total of 39 objections to the plans were received by the council, including from the Amersham Residents Association and the Lincoln Park Residents Association.