PRECIOUS green gaps that separate towns and villages in the Havant borough and East Hampshire are under major threat, campaigners warned today.
For hundreds of years countryside has been sandwiched between places like Havant, Emsworth and Rowlands Castle.
But green campaigners now fear there could be a deluge of planning applications to build on these gaps.
It comes as residents are set to face developers tonight to discuss a controversial application to build up to 180 homes on land off Havant Road, which has traditionally been part of the strategic gap to prevent Emsworth and Havant joining up.
Recent changes in national planning laws mean strategic gaps no longer exist – and are considered for development like any other greenfield site.
Ray Cobbett, from Emsworth, co-ordinator for Hampshire Friends of the Earth, said: ‘I am afraid the gaps are history – that’s what it boils down to.
‘The only opposition will be strictly on the usual planning guidelines.
‘Holding the line is going to be more difficult for the council to do.
‘Developers are taking their cue from the new relaxed planning guidelines which are now part and parcel of all planning applications.’
Mr Cobbett said protecting the gaps was key to maintaining the identity of individual communities.
Tony Briggs, leader of Havant Borough Council, admitted that planning changes had made gaps more ‘vulnerable’.
But he said: ‘I do think demarcation of settlements is important.
‘Gaps are important to communities.
‘Therefore any applications on these gaps will be considered in consultation with the communities.
‘This is what localism is all about.’
He said Havant’s Local Plan, now formally adopted, had outlined which parcels of land were earmarked for development.
The Havant Road site is not on the list of potential development sites.
Local residents told The News of their concerns.
Susan Durrant, 60, of Selangor Avenue, said: ‘It should be kept as a green gap.
‘The field attracts wildlife and is a nice bit of green between Emsworth and Havant.’
Cllr Briggs added: ‘If they are interested in putting in planning applications, we have to deal with it.
‘Our defence is we have a core strategy which has been signed off and found sound.
‘In that we have identified these areas for housing development.
‘The priority is to develop these areas.’
The Development Consultation Forum takes place from 6pm at The Plaza in Havant.