PART of the controversial Manydown land is to be preserved as recreational woodland to celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Twenty acres of the land, to the west of Basingstoke, will be set aside as new public woodlands under plans confirmed by Hampshire County Council.

The 820-hectare land, jointly owned by the county and Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, has been at the centre of a housing development storm which has divided the borough.

However, regardless of whether, or when, the land is built on, the 20-acre plot, between Wootton St Lawrence and Worting, will be exempt from development under a restrictive covenant.

County council leader Councillor Ken Thornber said: “It has long been a vision of Hampshire County Council to ensure that all the major urban areas of Hampshire would have access to the county’s country parks and other major recreation sites.

“The new woodlands will provide improved access, add to the local biodiversity and be used by the community for a variety of leisure, recreational and educational pursuits.”

The Diamond Wood, as it will be known, could be planted this winter. Woodland sites in Andover and Hedge End have also been preserved as part of the jubilee celebrations.

The project is being supported by The Woodland Trust. A statement from the trust said: “It is fitting that Hampshire County Council should make such a strong contribution to the project with schemes which will be of exceptional value to the residents of Hampshire.”