Hundreds of people – including TV presenter Chris Packham – are vociferously opposed to plans for a housing estate on land at Snails Lane, adjacent to Blashford Lakes.
They claim it is often under water and the close proximity of the site to the nature reserve there, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, means it is inappropriate for development.
“The water is up to one metre deep in places,” nearby resident David Phillips said. “This is an annual occurrence and overlays the naturally boggy nature of the site.
“Everybody who sees this level of flooding questions what madness must be at play to even consider building houses on such land.”
Their hope to halt the development has been boosted by the Environment Agency (EA), which has submitted a document to New Forest District Council outlining its opposition to the scheme.
The EA pointed out the flood-risk assessment fails to address how climate change will affect the land in the future, and does not state where houses will be located in relation to flood zones.
Flood-risk modelling the developer has used to justify building on the land is “inappropriate”, the EA added.
The outline proposal to develop the site, which is east of the A338 Salisbury Road and within the green belt, is by Gladman Developments Ltd.
It was included in New Forest District Council’s Local Plan document – which sets out where 10,500 new homes will be built on green belt sites outside the national park by 2036.
Earlier this year the plan was subjected to a public examination by two government-appointed planning inspectors who have since indicated their approval, provided NFDC makes “minor modifications” to it.
Of the sites in the Local Plan document, Snails Lane has arguably attracted the most ire – with 507 of the 508 people who commented on the proposal objecting. One remained neutral.
Among those against are Mr Packham, Lord Somerton – who lives near to the site – Ellingham, Harbridge and Ibsley Parish and Ringwood Town councils, Wessex Water, Natural England and the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Agency.
In the wake of indicated acceptance of a modified Local Plan, major bodies have restated their attitude towards developing Snails Lane to NFDC.
The EA is not the only one to have maintain its objection; Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service has also done the same.
As reported in the A&T previously, its chief fire officer Neil Odin warned firefighters might have to let some houses there burn down in the event of a fire.
Outlining the service’s opposition, he explained his crews would have to allow a “controlled burn” of some properties because any “fire water run-off” containing foam from the hoses could pose a risk to protected species in the nearby lake.
Hampshire Highways – which is run by Hampshire County Council – has also lodged a “holding objection”. It reasoned the plans did not feature enough detail in terms of the impact the development will have on traffic and roads.
Gladman’s application said the new homes would help tackle the current shortfall of accommodation, as well as offer “opportunities for biodiversity enhancements”.
The scheme would include a children’s play area, green space to relieve pressure on the New Forest, and a drainage basin to retain surface water and provide new wildlife habitat.
The application also claims 72 homes will be set aside for below open-market prices.