THROOP residents fear hundreds of thousands of visitors will descend on their streets if council plans for Hicks Farm go ahead.

And the recently formed Throop Village Conservation Group is claiming Bournemouth council's currently under way consultation is being conducted under the radar as the borough fears a deluge of criticism.

The council intends the site, which it owns and says has been "neglected" for some time, to become a major entrance to the proposed Stour Valley Park, alongside Hengistbury Head and Kingston Lacy at either end.

Proposals for the site include a working farm for visitors, a community garden, river walks, wildlife watching and exercise activities.

Throop resident Julie-Anne Houldey, of the conservation group's committee, said residents have received no written communication from the council, no posters have gone up, and an 'information caravan' set up by the borough with details of the proposals has been stationed in Muscliff's Kingfisher Barn, rather than in the village.

"We feel aggrieved that the council has been quite secretive in their approach, and has not been consulting with local residents," she said.

"This plan will absolutely devastate this area, which is in a conservation area.

"Elsewhere natural habitats have been completely ruined by opening up the countryside."

Also, she said, information about the scheme had only gone online days after the consultation began.

According to the website, the information caravan is due to be stationed at Throop Mill on August 16-18, at different times each day. But otherwise it is at Kingfisher Barn until August 27.

Group secretary Toby Blackmore said: "Just putting the caravan a mile away from the village is a great example of the council's approach to this consultation."

He said the borough's plans would see Hicks Farm given the same tourism status as Hengistbury Head, which receives a million visitors a year, and Kingston Lacy, which receives 350,000 visitors a year, and it could expect similar numbers.

"It seems incredible they would plan to put something in a small hamlet with the kind of numbers they are talking about," he said.

Ms Houldey said she thought an area of council-owned land beside Cherry Tree Nursery, just off the New Road roundabout, would be better suited for the scheme.

Bournemouth council has been contacted and its response will be published when received.