COUNCILLORS defended a town's need for affordable housing at a heated meeting in Lyme Regis.

Lyme Regis Town Council invited developers to discuss proposals to build 120 houses at land near Sidmouth Road, on the outskirts of the town - across the Devon border.

But residents criticised the plans, citing traffic problems, building on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and worries that services in Lyme Regis would be put under pressure.

John Clements said: "Every fifth house in Lyme Regis is empty for most of the year and is a second home" he said. "The fact is there is no need for more.

"Affordable housing can be met by existing stock in west Dorset. To obliterate this beautiful hillside and AONB land next to this historic land with a housing estate lit up by the skyline would be nothing short of a crime."

Members of the council's planning and highways committee generally agreed with the concerns about the development, but stressed that the town does not want to miss out on any allocation of affordable housing if the development does go ahead through an appeal.

Mayor Owen Lovell, said: "It is easy for people to say 'not in my back yard'.

"I know there is more than a chance that this could be appealed and that causes me grave concern for this town. If it does go to appeal, we want Lyme Regis to get consideration with affordable housing."

Committee chairman, Cllr Anita Williams, defended the 'horrendous' affordable housing situation in the town - despite a hostile response from locals, but agreed with concerns about the proposals.

"Affordable housing is crucial to Lyme Regis" she said.

"People who were born and raised in this town would like to live closer to their families.

"The affordable housing position is horrendous. For me, affordable housing now should always be rented."

Councillors have sent comments from members of the public and councillors to East Devon District Council for consideration - including concerns over the AONB, typography of the site, traffic issues, impact on the landscape and the general impact on the countryside.

Tim Hoskinson, planning consultant at Savills, said: "We have reduced it down to 120 houses and put the development back into one field, along with a number of landscaping measures.

"If East Devon District Council and West Dorset District Council can work together, we are confident that affordable housing can meet people's needs in Lyme Regis."