A BEAUTY spot in Hampshire could officially become a nature reserve when council chiefs meet next week to debate on its future.

Fishlake Meadows near Romsey is home to an abundance of rare wildlife including otters, bats, dragonflies and wetland birds.

Now, after a three-month consultation, people the 60-hectare site could become a nature reserve when Test Valley Borough Council’s cabinet meets next week and hands it over to public ownership.

It is expected that a management plan, setting out how the community could take control of the site and find an organisation to manage it, will be adopted on Wednesday.

Tony Ward, the borough council’s portfolio holder, said he was glad to see this proposal being put forward.

“There’s no point having a natural resource if the public can’t enjoy it,” he said. “The main thing to do is to get a management plan which has got the right balance between access and preservation.

“I’m really enthusiastic about the project. I think in future years people will really come to enjoy it. I think that the area of Romsey will benefit greatly from it. I think it will be a real treasure for Romsey.”

He added that the detail of what how the site will be managed on a day-to-day basis will be figured out in the coming months.

“It will develop. It’s not something that will happen overnight. It will be a question of using a lot of patience to work out how we manage it over time.”

Arguably the most outstanding feature is its bird life, with more than 150 species recorded so far.

The species of birds include 66 listed as either red or amber on the list of birds of greatest conservation concern. Notable bird species include osprey, Cetti’s warbler and grasshopper warbler.

It is a rich mosaic of wildlife habitats, comprising areas of open and standing water, reedbeds, swamp and flood plain marsh which is criss-crossed by a network of rivers and ditches.

Species including European otter and European water vole are also resident, as well as 19 recorded species of dragonfly and damselfly, and 115 recorded plant species.

As previously reported Test Valley Council has granted outline planning permission to build 64 houses at Oxlease Farm to the east of Fishlake Meadows on condition that the site is secured as a nature reserve.

In 2012, landowner Tom Hanslip said Romsey could have its own wetland nature reserve.

It would be fully funded and managed for 25 years, in return for permission to build 58 new homes.

Southampton footballer and former England coach Kevin Keegan had dreams of turning it into a golf course.

Andy Lester, described it as “fantastic news for the local community and for wildlife”.

“The report is a positive and necessary thing,” he said. “There’s nothing in that’s bad, we’re doing what we should be doing. It’s fantastic start. It formalises it, it means that the council are singing on to it.

“What a wonderful opportunity to see a tremendous habitat and enhance it, and to know that it’s being done with the support of a property developer.

“It will be a community-based nature reserve. It will be something that benefits developers and local people and tries to tie the interests of both together.

“It will be a place for Romsey’s future, it will effectively become the jewel in the crown in the town.”

He added that it would protect the site from “speculative housing applications”.