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Appeal launch fires up Black Knoll eco-home planning battle

The £1.5m home design by Nina and Guy McNair-Wilson
The £1.5m home design by Nina and Guy McNair-Wilson

A PLANNING battle will reignite after the son of a former New Forest MP challenged the refusal of his plan to build a £1.5m eco-home on a controversial Brockenhurst site.

Guy McNair-Wilson wants to overturn the national park authority’s rejection of his proposal to demolish redundant agricultural structures at the former New Forest Activity Centre at Black Knoll and build a contemporary, single-storey house.

Confirming the appeal to the A&T, architectural designer Mr McNair-Wilson said the scheme “represents a significant pivot point for the site’s long-term future”.

The choice was between expanding as a “commercial property in the centre of the New Forest, contrary to all of the national park’s values”, he said, or delivering “one of the most environmentally advanced planning applications to have ever been presented to the NPA”.

A hearing chaired by a government inspector will take place on Wednesday 8th April at Lymington Town Hall to decide the matter. Written statements must be made to the planning inspectorate no later than 19th February.

As reported in the A&T, when the plan went before the NPA’s planning committee last year, members ruled the house was not special enough to be allowed against rules that ban construction on the open Forest. It voted 5-2 against – with two members abstaining.

Designs for the 3.5-acre site showed a home divided into two wings either side of a courtyard. One half would be thatched and the other side, containing bedrooms, covered with a sedum living flat-roof. There would also be a pond, meadow and outbuildings containing an office.

There has been controversy surrounding the site, which is next to protected land, for some years. Because it is an equestrian venue it has lawful D2 use – which allows for gatherings of more than 1,000 people without a licence.

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

As it lies outside the defined village of Brockenhurst, policy states new residential development is not permitted unless as an exception for agricultural workers or commoners’ dwellings.

It is not the first contentious battle the conditions have sparked. More than a decade ago the late New Forest entrepreneur Alan Girling pushed for permission to use it as a medieval jousting venue.

That prompted fears of congestion from visitor traffic, and Mr Girling eventually gave up his quest for planning permission after a renewed effort in 2013.

One of the most vociferous voices against Mr Girling’s plans was NPA planning committee member Cllr Maureen Holding. She is also a vocal opponent of the plan by Mr McNair-Wilson, the son of former New Forest MP Sir Patrick.

Before the NPA refused the plan, Cllr Holding said she believed approving it would set a “precedent” for future development. She also doubted it was “extra special”.

But other NPA members were supportive, including George Bisson. He called it a “wonderful opportunity” that would “conserve and enhance” what was a dilapidated site.

According to Mr McNair-Wilson, his proposal would bring a host of benefits to what he said was a brownfield site, including returning it to a natural state and removing the current three-storey outbuildings.

Applicants Nina and Guy McNair-Wilson
Applicants Nina and Guy McNair-Wilson

His proposed single-storey house, designed by Natalie Skeete, had been independently assessed by the South West Design Review Panel and praised in the context of national planning policy. The house was a “significant enhancement to the setting”, he said.

“Planning applications such as this, that sincerely seek to discover the very best outcomes for the site, in terms of ecology, heritage and community, should be embraced,” Mr McNair-Wilson said.

The project has been supported by Brockenhurst Parish Council, and its planning committee voted to back the appeal.

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