THE famous Victory Oak tree, understood to have been planted by Dwight Eisenhower to celebrate the end of the Second World War, will remain at the heart of a new development to build 210 new homes and a wildlife habitat.

The scheme, on the site of a derelict former Second World War military hospital at St Leonards, will include a range of affordable housing and care facilities.

But the less obvious beneficiaries are the new habitats that will be created for the threatened wildlife that were once common on this now neglected land.

The site, which is owned by the Homes and Communities Agency, will be transformed as part of a joint project by developers Spectrum Housing Group, the HCA and Natural England together with the Dorset Wildlife Trust.

St Leonards Hospital near Ferndown was built as a wartime hospital for American and Canadian military forces who flew their injured servicemen into Hurn Airport.

The site was also home to a POW camp to the south of the main hospital buildings and it's believed the POWs worked in the hospital.

Most of the buildings were reportedly demolished sometime in the 1960s but there are several concrete bases remaining along with the site water tower.

However it has now been confirmed that all of the remaining buildings and the water tower will be demolished.

Mary Miller, strategic land manager at Spectrum Housing Group, said: “The new homes will be built almost entirely in the footprint of the former hospital buildings.

"While some of the buildings were demolished years ago, the water tower will be demolished, along with a number of other derelict and dangerous buildings across the site.

"We have to wait for the relevant ecology work to be done to protect indigenous species before doing this.”

However this has upset some history enthusiasts who believe demolishing all reminders of the hospital will also destroy the memory of the soldiers who lost their lives there.

Local resident Gregory Korbutt said: "This is a monument to remember what effort this site played in the Second World War.

"When the houses are built there won't be any thing apart from a tree to remember these people and that will eventually die and rot away.

"Yet a tower is a ready made monument.

"I think the vital role this hospital played is surely worth displaying with pride. It's not pretty but then does it have to be?

"It served a purpose and still could."