CAMPAIGNERS are calling for a new law to protect the Hampshire countryside against development.

It follows a new report by countryside charity CPRE Hampshire, which found that the countryside above urban areas in South Hampshire could generate almost £26million a year in health, wellbeing, economic and ecosystem benefits if protected by a Green Belt.

A Green Belt would would provide vital access to the countryside for people living in the larger towns and cities of Eastleigh, Fareham, Portsmouth, Romsey, Southampton and Winchester, and restrict the further sprawl and merging of these urban areas.

This is according to charity bosses, who want to ensure that the countryside is protected for current and future generations.

Dee Haas, chair of CPRE Hampshire, said: "A South Hampshire Green Belt is part of our strategic vision for the county.

"We want to make sure that South Hampshire has a countryside next door for current and future generations.

“During the coronavirus lockdown, there’s been a surge of appreciation for the countryside and an awareness of the role that green spaces and nature play in our wellbeing. We’re realising the value of the countryside nearest to our homes. This value can be expressed in different ways.”

It is now campaigning for a new Green Belt to prevent urban sprawl north of the built-up areas of South Hampshire.

The report states that the health and wellbeing benefit for people living in and around this area of countryside could amount to up to £17m a year.

It also says that the potential impact of building across the proposed Green Belt area may cost the NHS up to £690,000 in increased GP visits a year.

While the potential economic benefit from tourism and recreation in the proposed Green Belt area is estimated to be £1.3m a year, according to the report.

The report is based on a large body of evidence from UK and international research studies on the physical and mental health benefits of green and open spaces – benefits that are being highlighted even more to all of us during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dee Haas added: “We want our decision-makers to make sure that the value of our countryside, as set out in this report, is retained by the protection of a Green Belt – the only effective legislation currently available to prevent urban sprawl