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Bid for 86 caravans on 'no limit' New Forest site

The entrance to Vernon Dene at North Ripley
The entrance to Vernon Dene at North Ripley

THE owners of an isolated caravan site in the national park who are bidding to redevelop it with dozens of residential units could get the go-ahead without needing planning permission.

The company has bought up the Vernon Dene site at North Ripley, between Bransgore and Ringwood, and has now applied for a licence to have 86 residential caravans there.

The 2.57-hectare field had previously accommodated only a handful of touring caravans but a certificate of lawful use granted to former owner Jonathan Cox by the national park authority in 2007 put no restriction on numbers.

In granting the certificate, the NPA said it was satisfied that the use had been in place for a period of at least 10 years.

As well as placing no limit on numbers, it did not impose any conditions on the type of caravans allowed on-site, or their size.

The licensing application will be dealt with by New Forest District Council, which has refused to reveal the identity of the applicants. It can only impose conditions relating to matters such as how the site should be laid out, and the type of toilet and washing facilities that should be provided.

Locals living nearby are concerned that the site will become like others at Milford and Christchurch which have been redeveloped with luxury residential mobile homes which are being sold for over £400,000.

One local resident, who did not want to be named, told the A&T: “It’s extremely alarming and disturbing that you can, in effect, build almost 90 houses in the national park without planning permission. It’s potentially a very serious loophole and definitely a cause for concern.”

Another said: “It’s on a very narrow road which is already used as a rat-run so to have that many more people using it will make it even more dangerous.

“It’s also very popular with cycling groups who seem to think it is a country lane but it isn’t.

“And I don’t know how local services such as doctors are going to cope with the extra demand.”

The NPA’s executive director of strategy and planning, Steve Avery, confirmed he was aware of the situation and said the authority was investigating.

He told the A&T: “It’s fair to say we received a number of representations over the Easter weekend when bulldozers and heavy machinery were brought onto the site and worked fairly frantically to clear bushes and trees.”

He said that after the NPA contacted the owners, work appeared to have slowed.

Mr Avery added: “On face value it seems planning permission is not required for what they want to do, but that needs to be carefully checked and established and we have let them know we are doing that.”

An NFDC spokesperson confirmed to the A&T it had received an application for a residential site licence for 86 mobile homes on the site.

They added: “We have spoken with the NPA as the planning authority for this site which has confirmed that relevant planning permission was granted in 2007 for the land to be used as a caravan site, with no restriction on numbers.

“The Environmental and Regulation Service is currently reviewing the documents submitted with the application prior to issuing a licence under the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960. We will be considering what conditions to attach to the licence in line with the Model Standards published under the Act.”

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