A PLAN to build more than 140 homes on greenbelt land in the New Forest has sparked almost 480 objections.

The application has also come under fire from Hampshire wildlife expert Chris Packham, who criticised the “short-sighted” proposal to redevelop the site beside the River Avon near Ringwood.

He said: “This area is a very important wildlife corridor between the western escarpment of the New Forest and the Avon flood meadows.

"It’s a few metres from Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve – a Site of Special Scientific Interest – and is also a top place for wildlife in its own right.”

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Mr Packham, who lives in the Forest, said he was also against the plan because the site was on a flood plain.

He added: “In the winter time some parts of this area are over a metre deep in water. If we put loads of new houses in there, that water has got to go somewhere. It’s going to go downstream where it’s going to cause more flooding.”

The Springwatch presenter said he understood the need for new homes but called for a rethink.

He added: “This is short-sighted short-termism and we need to think about the future both for us and our wildlife.”

People living in the area say the scheme will create extra traffic problems, put extra pressure on schools and medical facilities and “decimate” local wildlife.

One of the objections has been lodged by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.

In a letter to New Forest District Council it says the area includes one of the biggest expanses of floodplain grassland in Britain and supports a nationally important range of wetland bird species.

A Gladman has issued a statement saying the scheme will ease the Forest’s housing shortage.

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The statement added: “The development would contribute to the economic role of the area by generating employment and tax receipts during construction.

“In the longer term the local economy would benefit from the provision of housing, investment in local infrastructure and services, and additional expenditure on goods and services.”

A company spokesman declined to comment on the concerns raised by Mr Packham.

The application has so far sparked 477 letters of objection, although some people are understood to have written twice.

A council spokesman said: “An environment statement is required. Once this has been submitted it will be around three months until a decision can be made.”