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CONTROVERSIAL plans to turn a remnant of the ancient Forest of Bere into a pet cemetery have been approved.

Campaigners pleaded with Havant Borough Council last night to defer or refuse the proposals until more information could be given about the sensitive ecology of Johnston’s Coppice, a 25-acre wood off Purbrook Way, Purbrook.

Campaigner sagainst a plan to turn Johnston's Coppice, a 25-acre wood off Purbrook Way, Purbrook, into a pet cemetery

Campaigner sagainst a plan to turn Johnston's Coppice, a 25-acre wood off Purbrook Way, Purbrook, into a pet cemetery

Tree wardens from across the Havant borough gathered outside The Plaza before their meeting, calling for ancient semi-natural woodland to remain untouched.

But councillors voted for it by a majority vote, arguing it could help improve the woods.

As reported, environmentalist Terena Plowright, from Petersfield, wants to help return the woodland to its former glory.

The natural burial of animals would pay for the upkeep of the coppice, which is owned by Hampshire County Council.

Emsworth councillor Richard Galloway, making a deputation to the planning committee, said that all ancient woodland was ‘irreplaceable’.

Nik Knight, an ecologist from Havant, was worried protected hazel dormice could be harmed by burials. He called for a full, independent ecological survey.

He said: ‘Hampshire is one of its last major strongholds. It’s highly vulnerable to the types of activities proposed.’

The Woodland Trust objected to the development, as well as an initial objection from the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.

The county council ecologist said the development did not pose any significant risks to the woodland.

Ms Plowright, who has been in consultation with the Forestry Commission, said: ‘It is not something I am entering into in a haphazard way.’ She added that she had a ‘long history of woodland management’.

And Ms Plowright said: ‘I am excited about the future of this woodland and the opportunity for increasing biodiversity, not destroying it.’

Cllr Cyril Hilton, who sits on the committee, said: ‘It’s in a heck of a state.

‘There’s no-one looking after it. If Ms Plowright is asking to look after this woodland, why not give her a chance?’

Planning officer Chris Murray explained it was a ‘low-key’ development. There would be no crosses, headstones or similar markers or memorials in the woods and flowers would only be allowed for up to seven days after a burial. Four councillors voted for it and one against, with one abstention.

After the meeting, Frances Jannaway, volunteer co-ordinator for Havant borough tree wardens, said: ‘It’s appalling. It feels like it was rubberstamped.’