ONE of Hampshire’s biggest landowners says a controversial development project will make the area safer for hundreds of children at two schools.

Barker-Mill Estates (BME) has hit back at criticism of its plan to build homes on the edge of the New Forest National Park.

Members of the newly formed Keep Ashurst and Colbury Green action group say the development would devour part of a greenfield site. As reported in the Daily Echo, a rally staged by the group was attended by more than 70 people.

But BME says the project also includes a new car park and drop-off point that aims to keep traffic away from Foxhills infant and junior schools.

The proposals have been welcomed by staff at the two sites, said to have the most dangerous school approach route in the New Forest.

BME trustee Tim Jobling confirmed that the number of proposed new homes had been cut to 11 in the wake of previous protests.

He added: “We’re committed to providing the Foxhills area with a proposal that responds to residents’ concerns to the initial plans, as well as addressing the on-going problems the schools are having with regard to highway safety and parking. Since our original proposal was developed last year we have reduced the number of properties by half.

“The proposed housing will be situated on the southern part of the site, maintaining a ‘green’ frontage and the rural nature of the village as much as we can.”

BME says the school run has caused parking and traffic problems in the area for more than two decades.

In the past two years the village has seenee three accidents in which children have been knocked off their bikes.

And numerous near misses have resulted from motorists pulling out, people opening car doors and the sheer volume of traffic.

Ruth Linsley, head teacher at the infant school, said: “We’ve been trying hard to take action and it’s great that BME are working with us to finally put these plans in place.”

Andrew Shore, head teacher at the junior school, added: “The safety of the children and the needs of the community are at the heart of the planned changes, which will make Foxhills a better, safer place.”

BME is planning to submit its proposals to the New Forest National Park Authority, which must decide if the advantages outweigh the objections.