CAMPAIGNERS have raised "grave concerns" about the condition of two ancient buildings linked to the industry that made a Hampshire town wealthy.

Members of the Lymington Society are urging the New Forest National Park Authority (NPA) to take urgent action to safeguard the Grade II-listed barns at Lower Woodside.

The group is calling on the NPA to carry out a full inspection and take any necessary action to safeguard the buildings.

They are believed to be the last surviving remnants of the salt production trade, which drove the development of Lymington and the surrounding area.

The society has approached the NPA following the storm that resulted in the partial collapse of Hurst Castle and nearby Keyhaven.

Don Mackenzie, the group's deputy chairman, said: "We hope that despite the difficulties posed by the pandemic, the NPA will move quickly to establish the situation and to ensure that nothing like the Hurst Castle collapse can happen to these historic listed buildings.”

The letter to the NPA highlights the society's "grave concerns" about the state of the barns.

It adds: "We would like to seek your assurance that these barns will now be properly inspected and that any remedial work needed will be arranged, either by agreement of the current owners or, if necessary, by enforcement."

An NPA spokesperson said: "As the National Park Authority, it’s our responsibility to monitor the condition of listed buildings within the national park.

"We are aware of the situation concerning the salt barns and the owner has been contacted. We haven’t looked at enforcement action at this stage as we firstly wanted to ascertain the position of the owner.”

Lymington's salt marshes supplied an important industry that began in the medieval period and continued until the early 19th century.

Salt extracted from seawater was a highly-valued commodity used in cooking. It also played a vital role in the preservation of meat, fish and vegetables.

Much of Lymington's 17th and 18th century prosperity was based on revenue generated by the salt marshes in the Pennington and Keyhaven areas.

Daniel Defoe, best known as the author of Robinson Crusoe, visited the New Forest and declared that "all of Southern England" obtained its salt from Lymington.

But the industry was hit by rising taxes, the cost of buying and transporting the coal used in the boiling process, and competition from inland salt producers based in Cheshire.

By 1836 only 14 "salterns" were still in operation. The last closed in the mid-1860s.