The New Forest National Park has adopted a new ‘Local Plan’ containing stronger policies to help safeguard the Forest’s landscape and natural beauty, yet incorporating policies to meet the needs of local people.
The policy review, which began in 2015, included several rounds of consultation with the public and a wide range of organisations. The Plan includes more support for affordable housing and commoners’ dwellings; safeguarding areas of tranquillity; and protecting the Forest’s landscape character, trees and historic environment.
Existing planning policies to protect, maintain and enhance nationally, regionally and locally important sites and features of the natural environment – including habitats and species of biodiversity importance, geological features and the water environment – are retained in the new Plan:
- restricting the size of new homesto ensure developments address identified local needs for smaller one-to-three bedroomed properties
- a small increase in housing development from the current average of around 25 homes a year to 40 per year
- a lower site size threshold for new developments
- allocating a few sites for new housing for the first time since the National Park was designated in 2005. On these new housing sites we will be seeking a significant proportion of affordable housing to meet local housing needs
- restricting any developments of care homes
- a new policy on major development
Whilst it is vital to protect the New Forest, I hope the plan does “exactly what it says on the tin” as, after all, the Forest has always been a living, breathing, working forest, and this country is in desperate need of more housing. Local businesses need to grow and prosper and the country needs to house the elderly. Let’s hope the plan is not simply lip service and that we see evidence of the support suggested.
The new Local Plan can be viewed at www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/localplan