Appeal sees green light for £1.5 million eco home after national park rejected plans
THE son of a former New Forest MP said he was “delighted” after winning an appeal to build a £1.5m eco home on a controversial Brockenhurst site that was once proposed as a stadium for medieval-style jousting tournaments.
The decision to grant Guy McNair-Wilson permission for a contemporary, single-storey house at the former New Forest Activity Centre brings to an end a contentious planning saga going back more than a decade.
He had challenged the New Forest National Park Authority’s rejection of his plan in 2019, which involves pulling down redundant structures at the site.
His appeal has now been granted by government inspector Paul Jackson, who visited the site and heard evidence from both sides at an inquiry.
The site has a controversial past as it was once the subject of failed plans by the late New Forest entrepreneur Alan Girling for permission to use it as a medieval jousting venue, which was angrily opposed by villagers.
In his ruling on the eco-home, Mr Jackson said the scheme would remove prominent, non-agricultural buildings which “have been and would be likely to be used for purposes harmful to the character of the area and to ecological interests”.
He went on: “Considering the development plan as a whole, the benefits of the scheme outweigh the conflicts and lie firmly in favour of the statutory purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the New Forest.”
The appeal was launched after the NPA’s planning committee voted 5-2 against it, as reported in the A&T.
Members decided that the proposed house was not special enough to overcome rules that ban construction on the open Forest.
Speaking after the appeal decision was announced, Mr McNair-Wilson – whose father is former MP Sir Patrick McNair-Wilson – told the A&T: “It is a shame that the policy doesn’t allow them to read between the lines in exceptional cases.”
He claimed the committee demonstrated “a lack of stewardship” as its decision had risked legitimising the argument for the site’s commercial use – which could have been “devastating” to the area.
There has been controversy surrounding the site, next to protected land, for years. Because it is an equestrian venue it has lawful use for gatherings of more than 1,000 people without a licence.
As it lies outside the defined village of Brockenhurst, however, policy states new residential development is not permitted – unless as an exception for agricultural workers or a commoner’s dwelling.
But in his bid to gain approval Mr McNair-Wilson, who purchased the land with his wife in 2018, argued the scheme was of high enough quality to be allowed.
He said they had developed the plan and design for over a year with consultant Bob Hull, and it had involved an innovative soil inoculation proposal, championed by Southampton University, to protect nearby habitats.
Local award-winning horticulturalist Tim Woodford, from Garden Secrets in Lymington, also developed an intensive ecosystem revival program called the Woodford Model. It was designed to nurture a natural environment focused only upon species and animals native to the New Forest.
Mr McNair-Wilson praised NPA members Cllrs Barry Rickman and George Bisson for the support they showed the plan, and Brockenhurst Cllr Maureen Holding for her campaign against commercial development.