AT LEAST 250 new homes look set to be built on land at Morton Way in Thornbury following a drastic change of direction by a government inspector.

After a major row which split the town between those in favour of development at Morton Way and those championing Park Farm as the most suitable location for a 500-home estate, the latter site was chosen.

This decision from South Gloucestershire Council, backed by a majority of town leaders, was approved in the summer by a government inspector, Paul Crysell.

But he has now expressed his intention to increase the pace of development in the region, forcing the authority to fit 850 extra homes on various sites across the district, including Morton Way.

Although strongly opposed to accelerating development in the region, the local authority has offered the inspector a "trade-off".

Planners are proposing to build an extra 594 homes, the maximum they could find space for in the next five years, they said, including 250 on Morton Way north.

Patrick Conroy, strategic planning manager at South Gloucestershire Council, told the Gazette the council was was forced to throw Morton Way back into the mix "by reasons largely beyond its control".

"We are very disappointed that the inspector is not with us on the amount of housing to be delivered in the first five years," he said.

"It is with regret that the council has made the difficult decision to identify land at Morton Way north."

The local authority is now waiting for the inspector's response to its offer.

A Preserve Morton Way action group spokesman said the decision would open the floodgates to development.

She said: "We find it incredulous that a site is now being included in the core strategy which has previously been rejected by South Gloucestershire Council after the three year consultation process.

"Should this development go ahead along Morton Way not only will it result in the loss of beautiful countryside, it will change the natural boundary and country feel of our town forever."

In its core strategy, South Gloucestershire Council outlined its plan to build fewer homes in the first five-year phase of construction and increase their number in the second and third stages when more land, including sites in Filton, became available.

District and town Cllr Maggie Tyrrell said this change in policy would put unnecessary stress on the community.

She said: "We’ve gone through a lot of tension in the community to agree to 500 houses at Park Farm. We need some respite from this."