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Anger as green spaces lose out in 'watered down' Highcliffe Neighbourhood Plan

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HIGHCLIFFE Castle is among nearly two dozen green spaces to lose out on extra protection in a proposed set of hyperlocal planning policies.

The site was among 22 that a planning inspector deleted from the draft Neighbourhood Plan being drawn up by Highcliffe and Walkford Parish Council.

The document, which must ultimately be ratified by a local referendum, is not legally binding but sets out guidelines which builders and BCP Council planners must refer to. It can also unlock extra funding from developer's contributions.

Highcliffe Castle is among the sites removed (picture: Steve West)
Highcliffe Castle is among the sites removed (picture: Steve West)

Only 10 of 32 sites put forward by the parish council as designated local green spaces were accepted by the inspector, who assessed the Neighbourhood Plan ahead of it going to a final public vote later after approval by BCP Council.

The reason was that they already had sufficient protection under other planning policies.

Other locations to miss out included Chewton Bunny, Steamer Point, and Walkford and Roeshot allotments.

The result was branded “disgraceful” by Cllr Andy Martin, vice-chair of the parish council, which nevertheless agreed to press ahead with the revised version.

Cllr Martin told the A&T: “It’s hugely disappointing and worrying for residents that the Neighbourhood Plan appears to be have watered down by the examiner in terms of protecting our environment.

“A strong Neighbourhood Plan is what the residents wanted and they are entitled to feel let down by this. It remains to be seen whether in the long term, the removal of these local green spaces will be a damaging mistake.

“What he seems to have overlooked is that all the pre-existing policies currently protecting our open spaces are under review by BCP Council and could themselves be watered down, changed or scrapped under pressure for more building.”

But he said a weakened Neighbourhood Plan was better than no plan at all and he would urge residents to back it when a referendum is held.

The inspector's findings were welcomed by local developer Christopher Bulstrode, however, who said it would stop the parish council’s attempt "to create a moratorium on all potential building land in the Highcliffe conurbation".

He said: “[It is] a backward thinking negative approach to the detriment of those trying to acquire a home. I trust when it goes to a referendum, residents will recognise it for the expensive time-wasting operation it has been.”

Sites not included as local green spaces also included Nea Meadows, Highcliffe Rec, the Cliffhanger area, Mudeford Wood, St Mark's Cemetery, Jesmond Wood, Bramble Lane Copse, and Verno Lane conservation area.

The ones that remain are Lakewood, green spaces off Saffron Drive, Woodfield Gardens, Bellflower Close play area, Hurst Close, Oakwood Road/Latimer Close green spaces, Hoburne Brook, Woodhayes Avenue Copse, Ashmore Grove Copse and The Meadway.

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