THEY turned out in force to show their support for a greenfield site that has been targeted by developers.
More than 70 people attended a rally staged by an action group that is battling to save a precious corner of the New Forest National Park.
One of the area’s biggest landowners, Barker-Mill Estates, wants to build 11 houses in a field on the edge of Ashurst.
Barker-Mill say the scheme will provide much-needed rental properties for young people unable to buy a house in the village.
But the plans are being opposed by members of the newly-formed Keep Ashurst and Colbury Green (KACG), which is determined to prevent developers “nibbling away” at the edge of the National Park.
Campaigners claim the National Park Authority (NPA) will set a dangerous precedent if it allows the site to disappear beneath bricks and concrete.
KACG chairman Christine Bunday said between 20 and 30 houses were originally planned for the site between Foxhills and Knellers Lane.
She added: “In a poll more than 200 locals, including 142 from Ashurst, were against the proposals.
“These fields have already had eight houses built yards away from them in the past two years so we feel this area has done its bit to provide houses for the national park.
“I understand the developer has recently reduced the number of homes they plan to apply for down to 11. But we still feel that the proposal goes against the present village and NPA planning policy.
“It will eat away at the edge of the national park, resulting in the loss of green field amenity and grazing land.
“It will also send a signal to housing developers right across the UK that national parks can be nibbled away from the edges.”
However, Barker-Mill spokesman Tim Jobling defended the scheme, saying it would enable young people in Ashurst to remain in the village.
“The cost of houses for sale means they’re being priced out of the market,” he said.
“We’re proposing to build six houses that would be retained and let to local people. A housing association would build a further five properties, which would also be occupied by locals.
“The site is in the national park but it’s not green belt land and represents only part of a field.”
Cllr Sally Arnold, chairman of Ashurst and Colbury Parish Council, added: “In common with residents, the council has only seen draft proposals put forward by Barker Mill.
“As and when any formal planning application is submitted, the council will give due consideration to the application to ensure it complies with our village design statement.”
Cllr Arnold said the council would also consider social and economic issues before recommending the NPA to either approve or reject the scheme.