An inquiry will decide whether permission will be given to build more than 180 homes on a former golf course site that “could impact the identity of St Ives and Houghton”.

The inquiry started yesterday (November 3) and will look into Huntingdonshire District Council's decision to refuse permission for a housing development on the site of the former St Ives Golf Course, in Houghton Road, St Ives.

Following the decision, made in January, applicants BDW Developments Ltd and Trustees of St Ives (Hunts) Golf Club lodged an appeal to the High Court in an attempt to get it overturned.

The decision to turn down the application was made by the district council's development management panel as, councillors said, it had the potential to affect "the long term relationship of St Ives with surrounding countryside and nearby settlements".

In an opening statement, to chartered town planner and chartered surveyor Robert Mellor, barrister for the district council Michael Bedford said: "This is about the long term future of the spatial relationship between St Ives and Houghton and Wyton."

The district council also raised concerns that the site is not allocated for development in the Local Plan and the proximity of the houses to Houghton Road.

BDW Developments, meanwhile, said that the appeal site had been tied up in the controversy surrounding a separate development in a neighbouring field - the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) field, next to Houghton Grange, after it was thought to be protected from developments.

Acting for BDW, Christopher Katkowski QC said: "The appeal site must be demonstrated on its own merit - it's been dragged into the controversy which has engulfed the neighbouring field."

Houghton and Wyton neighbourhood plan working group and the parish council were among those to raise concerns during the meeting and at the initial planning stage.

In a comment to the district council, parish council representatives said: "This would remove the separation gap between town and village. This application should therefore only be designed and considered as a standalone extension to the town".

Mr Mellor is expected to visit the site on Thursday, with a decision about the future of the site expected next year.