CIVIC leaders have banded together to explore introducing a green belt in the Hampshire countryside.

The Partnership for Urban South Hampshire (PUSH), made up of the 10 councils from the southern part of the county, agreed to explore plans for the adoption of the building restriction area.

This proposal came from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) which says the belt will protect the remaining countryside gaps between the urban areas of Eastleigh, Fareham, Portsmouth and Southampton.

If legally approved, this will mean no housing can be built on the land.

Councillor Seán Woodward, chairman of PUSH, leader of Fareham Borough Council, and county council member, recommended the committee looked at how the idea could be adopted.

This was supported by many other leaders, who spoke about the risks of not protecting the countryside and the potential benefits for local residents.

CPRE Hampshire chief executive Charlee Bennett said the green belt would protect some of Hampshire’ fields from house building and development.

She said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have had such a positive response.

“The adoption of a South Hampshire green belt would maintain the integrity of the cities, prevent urban sprawl and safeguard the beautiful countryside which we consistently hear is so important to communities. We are delighted that PUSH has decided to investigate the adoption of the belt further.

“Although the idea has been around for years, this is the first time the topic has been given the consideration it deserves, and we are so pleased for the unanimous support.”

PUSH will now be exploring options by working with councils including Eastleigh, Fareham, Test Valley, and Winchester, who have some of the most vulnerable green spaces.

Mr Bennett added: “We are looking forward to receiving their report and recommendations. Although we’ve still got a way to go, it feels like a real step forward in our campaign.”

A spokesman for CPRE Hampshire said: “Whilst there is a growing need for housing, this does not have to be at the cost of our countryside, which when gone, will be lost forever.

“This campaign has gained support with over 11,400 members of the public signing a petition in support of the South Hampshire Green Belt.”