Park authority set to reject £1.5m home at New Forest ‘theme park’ site

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New Forest Activity Centre
The £1.5m home submitted by Guy and Nina McNair-Wilson

A PROPOSED £1.5m house billed as a way of ending fears of a “theme park” in the heart of the New Forest is set to be rejected by the national park authority.

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A contemporary single-storey home has been submitted for the disused New Forest Activity Centre, off Rhinefield Road near Brockenhurst, where two large barns were once part of a hotly-contested scheme for a medieval jousting venue.

The latest plan has been handed in by new landowner Guy McNair-Wilson, an architectural designer who lives in East End and is the son of former New Forest MP Patrick.

He says it would end uncertainty over the 1.7-hecatre (4.2-acre) site which currently has planning designation for “assembly and leisure” uses.

New Forest Activity Centre
Applicants Nina and Guy McNair-Wilson

As reported in the A&T, it was that designation which the late New Forest entrepreneur Alan Girling used when he attempted to relaunch the former equestrian site as a venue for activities including medieval jousting, archery and climbing.

There were fears the scheme would cause congestion from visitor traffic and harm the village, and Mr Girling eventually gave up after a renewed effort in 2013.

Mr McNair-Wilson’s new plan has attracted the conditional backing of Brockenhurst Parish Council and conservation group Friends of the New Forest which described it as a “pragmatic and acceptable solution of a long-standing problem”.

But NPA officials say the application does not comply with rural building policy and previous planning arguments have shown commercial development would be “unlikely” there anyway.

A report is advising the authority’s planning committee to block the design when members meet to discuss it next week.

One of the shed at the disused New Forest Activity Centre site

Documents show the demolition of the redundant agricultural structures and in their place a single-storey, wood-clad dwelling divided into two wings either side of a courtyard.

The living area would be thatched and the one for bedrooms covered with a sedum living flat-roof. The rest of the site would include a pond, meadow and outbuildings containing an office.

The sticking point is that because the site lies outside the village boundary of Brockenhurst, it falls under policy for rural homes which is much stricter to protect the national park from development.

It usually only permits homes on specific sites, for agricultural workers and commoners, or to replace an existing dwelling.

New Forest Activity Centre
A view through corridor linking the two-winged property

But Mr McNair-Wilson, who is submitting the scheme with his wife Nina, says their home should be treated as an exception under the rules which allow “truly outstanding or innovative” development.

He pointed to the opportunity to end the “brownfield” site’s potentially disruptive leisure use, clearance of the pair of asbestos-built buildings, and putting two acres back to open countryside.

Southampton University has worked with him on a landscaping plan to create a new ecosystem on the site to match the surrounding Forest, he said, and the University of Ulster on a thermal energy system never used before in a domestic building.

Four further letters of support have been lodged with the NPA, and Natural England has not raised any objection.

But the NPA committee report concluded the scheme’s two-wing concept “is not truly outstanding or innovative” as there were already similar examples elsewhere in the national park, which complied with policy.

The one-storey property would be thatched on one side with a living flatroof on the other

It rejected his claim that the land was “brownfield”, having previously been used for agriculture, and cast doubt on its eco-credentials by describing the pond and meadow simply as a “landscape scheme”.

It concluded: “The proposal would result in the creation of a significant new dwelling in the open countryside of the national park.”

Mr McNair-Wilson told the A&T: “This is the most advanced planning application to ever appear before the NPA in terms of its ecological credentials, cutting-edge scientific research, exceptional architecture and enhancement of the setting.

“The NPA appear to be rigidly focused on past application on the site, and seem to be blinkered to the exceptional advantages proposed.”

He rejected the NPA’s claim that commercial activity there was unlikely, and warned that if the home was refused, he would have to use the site for something.

The architect behind the design is Forest Architecture Ltd, based in Lymington.

The NPA’s planning committee will decide the scheme when it meets at Lymington town hall on Tuesday.

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