THERE is enough brownfield land in the New Forest to build nearly 2,800 homes, countryside campaigners have claimed.
Research by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) identified 64 sites making up a combined 104 hectares within the New Forest area covered by both the district council and the national park authority.
It said that currently there are 306 unbuilt homes that have planning permission locally on sites classed as brownfield – land which has previously been developed in some way.
The figures have been published just months after NFDC recently approved 20-year policies that unlocked greenbelt land outside the national park for hundreds of new homes.
The CPRE said its figures came from national brownfield registers introduced in 2017. It said developing brownfield sites with high quality design properties needs to be prioritised.
It follows a white paper put out by government which suggests a radical overhaul of the planning system to make it quicker to build in some areas.
Crispin Truman, CPRE chief executive, said: “These figures clearly show that the planning system is not what is ailing our housing market.
“If there is enough land in the planning system to meet the government’s own housing targets – what will an overhaul of the planning system, with rushed and untested changes, really achieve?
“It’s clear the government has gravely misdiagnosed the problem. Slow build-out rates and market-led housing are blocking the quality affordable housing that rural communities are crying out for.”
The CPRA produced an overall report for Hampshire, which found the county had enough brownfield land for almost 27,900 new homes. More than a third of sites already have planning permission.
However, National Park Authority chairman, Prof Gavin Parker, has expressed reservations and has called on the government to clarify what protections will be kept for national parks – noting the government consultation document does not even mention them.
Asked about the CPRE figures for the New Forest, the district council’s deputy leader, Cllr Edward Heron, said it had analysed the CPRE data when forming the Local Plan – which sets out local areas of greenbelt land to be developed until 2036.
“The council has always given priority to making best use of previously developed land where that is possible, and the plan that the council adopted in July 2020 assumes the potential for brownfield development within the area is maximised,” Cllr Heron said.
He pointed to a plan for 1,380 new homes on the former Fawley Power Station – which is a brownfield site, adding the Local Plan had been prepared after the council “made a realistic assessment” of the potential for other brownfield sites to be redeveloped for new housing during the plan period.
“However, despite maximising the reuse of previously developed land in the area there was still a need to identify additional ‘greenfield’ sites to meet the level of new housing required,” he continued.
“The council continues to work with the development sector to ensure new housing, on both brownfield and greenfield sites, comes forward to provide good quality housing which addresses local needs and safeguards the district’s precious environment.”