A HAMPSHIRE wildlife haven is to get official nature reserve status.

Test Valley Borough Council is to take over Fishlake Meadows in Romsey after planners gave owner Tom Hanslip permission to build 64 houses on nearby paddocks at Oxlease Farm in Cupernham.

Proceeds from the sale of the homes will contribute to the management of the reserve which will be owned by the council once legal agreements are completed.

Mr Hanslip is also making a financial contribution to the ongoing upkeep of the reserve.

Councillors believe that the decision will see better management of the wetland and that it could reduce the risk of flooding in Romsey with planned improvements to drainage and sluices on the site, which is a Site of Importance to Nature Conservation.

Many species of birds have been spotted at the wildlife sanctuary, including heron, bittern, osprey, kingfisher, little egret, grebe, nightingale, hen and marsh harrier, peregrine, cormorant, reed and corn bunting and even the hawfinch, which is now seldom seen in many areas of Hampshire.

Otters and water vole are also known to live on the site, along with various reptile species.

Under the approved plans the whole nature reserve will be open to the public, new paths will be created and a bird hide built.