Curb visitor numbers to New Forest, council urges city planners
SOUTHAMPTON should try to curb the numbers of its people visiting the New Forest as it draws up new planning policies for the construction of thousands of homes in the city, the district council has said.
The impact on the national park of New Forest visitors coming into the area for recreation was raised as a concern in NFDC’s response to the neighbouring authority’s early work on its fresh set of policy proposals.
In a statement signed off by Cllr Edward Heron, NFDC’s deputy leader and cabinet member for planning and infrastructure, environmental reports produced so far by Southampton City Council (SCC) were branded “inadequate”.
The comments were in response to SCC consulting on its initial “vision” for starting work on its new Local Plan, a keystone document which sets out development rules within its boundaries over the next 20 years.
There are an estimated 13-million annual day visits to the New Forest every year, and Cllr Heron said the “recreational impacts” of new homes had to be managed by SCC to avoid harming local protected areas.
It said: “Southampton City Council should address this issue and adopt an effective approach to mitigation of recreational impacts on the New Forest beyond the current Solent-focussed mitigation work.”
NFDC’s response also criticised technical documents as failing to reflect available evidence. It called for the involvement of Natural England to ensure “consistent and proportionate mitigation” across the region.
As reported in the A&T, NFDC is in the final stages of adopting its own new Local Plan for about 10,500 homes by 2036.
Due to the limited amount of land available for construction, the council has been permitted by government inspectors to allocate space for 7,100 fewer homes than under normal calculations, despite controversially removing protection from some greenbelt areas to make room.
Those make up the bulk of a deficit across the wider south Hampshire area of around 8,640 homes by 2036 – a shortfall which NFDC’s response to SCC suggested should be met in more urban areas like Southampton.
On its website, SCC said: “We are currently at the start of the plan preparation process, part of which involves conducting an initial consultation exercise to ensure we have a good understanding of what people and businesses in the city need.”