SWATHES of countryside are to be protected from development.
Downland surrounding Horndean and Clanfield is set to remain unspoilt after the South Downs National Park Authority gave a clutch of sites extra protection.
It comes as the authority has published its masterplan for the next 15 years, outlining where around 4,000 homes should be built across the park of more than 395,000 acres.
While community leaders have welcomed the move, they have warned it could be a double-edged sword.
They fear it could place even greater pressure for infilling in areas just outside the National Park, including villages south of Butser Hill.
Five sites in Clanfield were put forward for housing, but were rejected.
They are sites: west of North Lane, East of Little Hyden Lane, North of Hambledon Road, east of East Meon Road and west of East Meon Road.
In Horndean the three protected sites are: land off Downhouse Road, Anchor Meadow, east of London Road, and land at Lovedean Lane, adjacent to Kingswood.
Horndean Downs Councillor Guy Shepherd said: ‘For Horndean this is significant as we have already identified the East Hampshire District Council allocations to meet our housing needs.
‘The South Downs National Park is its own planning authority and any development there would count to their figures, not ours, effectively dumping development in Horndean.’
Catherington and Lovedean Cllr Sara Schillemore welcomed the measures.
However, she said varying levels of protection made it difficult in areas like Catherington and Blendworth, which are cut in two by the National Park boundary. She said: ‘It’s causing a lot of pressure on some areas and south of Butser is one of those areas.
‘It’s really bad news when it’s separating communities like it is doing.’
Officials at the South Downs National Park Authority say developing the eight sites would have a potential ‘adverse impact on the character and appearance of the landscape’.
A report states ‘visual sensitivity’ was taken into account, including any change in the landscape being ‘highly visible’ and the numbers of people likely to perceive any changes.