First commoners’ rental home in a decade wins planning approval

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The New Forest Trust won permission from the national park authority for one house after plans for two were rejected

A CONSERVATION charity is set to build a new rented commoner’s dwelling on land near Ringwood – the first in about 10 years.

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The scheme, submitted by the New Forest Trust, was unanimously supported by the national park authority’s planning committee at a meeting in Lymington.

The latest plan for a house, stable and barn on land at Rockford Farm Barns follows the previous refusal of a scheme for two homes and stables in July 2018, which was opposed by the parish council as overdevelopment.

The land is owned by Hampshire County Council, which will lease it to the trust.

Speaking at the planning meeting, Sam Dovey from the trust said: “The trust believes that one of the most important elements of the Forest’s long term conservation in all its various aspects is the stock that graze it.

“Therefore it is vital that we maintain the community of people that own and maintain that stock – the commoners.”

The meeting heard that as the UK’s least affordable national park the lack of affordable housing and commoning land in the New Forest was one of the biggest threats to its future.

Mr Dovey said while the existing commoners dwelling scheme had proved an effective tool for allowing commoners to build homes on land they owned, there was still a dire lack of affordable rented accommodation for commoners.

He said: “Whilst countless holding have been lost there has not been a single rental dwelling built specifically for a commoner in the last decade within the Forest – which we believe is a truly concerning fact.”

A committee report explained despite local concerns about the loss of the barns as a heritage asset, it would be unreasonable to insist on their retention because of their very poor state of repair.

It continued: “In the latest proposal the simple design of the proposed dwelling, its modest scale and traditional fenestration and materials would ensure the buildings preserve the character and appearance of the conservation area.

“The reduction in the number of dwellings from the earlier application would now achieve a tighter and more rural composition.”

The meeting heard that five commoners had already expressed an interest in renting the property, to claims it was not need were unfounded.

NPA member Barry Rickman described the scheme as “an absolute no-brainer” and congratulated the New Forest Trust for working with the NPA to achieve a suitable plan.

Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre said: “This has my strongest support and I am very pleased the New Forest Trust has brought this forward.”

Speaking after the meeting New Forest Trust chairman William Ziegler said: “The lack of affordable housing and land for use by young commoners is recognised as one of the most serious threats facing the long term wellbeing of the New Forest.

“I am thrilled that after some initial setbacks we can now look forward to moving ahead with the development of the site at Rockford as a commoner’s holding, which will then be available for rent at a sustainable rate in perpetuity.”

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