PLANS to open up 12 hectares of land for walkers and cyclists in a Bournemouth village will be put on display for the public next month.

The ‘suitable alternative natural greenspace’ (SANG) will need to be created at Hicks Farm in Throop before the first people move into BCP Council’s new Winter Gardens development that will be built in the town centre.

A planning application for the SANG will be submitted in the autumn following two public consultation events.

As reported in the Echo in March,

the owners of 35 horses who have been using part of the land for grazing were left devastated when they were given until December to find alternative homes for their animals


BCP Council also wants to develop part of Hicks Farm into a community attraction with traditional farming demonstrations, a café and farm shop.

Throop residents fear the plans could see Hicks Farm given the same tourism status as Hengistbury Head, bringing thousands of visitors to the streets of their village .

The council said previously that it has been under pressure by Natural England to progress with its plans for the SANG. Regulations require the council to compensate for new developments in Bournemouth town centre and the impact they have on protected heathland habitats.

The SANG would aim to attract dog walkers, cyclists and anyone else who would otherwise use the heathlands.

To create the new area, pathways would be installed, new trees planted, and a 20-space car park built.

Financial contributions from local developments will be used to fund the SANG which, once complete, will become the ‘gateway’ to the council’s Stour Valley trail between Hengistbury Head and Longham.

Tree surveys and flood assessment work will be carried out as part of the scheme, the council says.

Stuart Clarke, conservation and countryside manager, said: “This land is part of the River Stour floodplain and so is prone to flooding if there are prolonged periods of high rainfall. The flooding generally persists for a few days or weeks and almost invariably occurs in winter. During this short window no access would be possible, but for the vast majority of the year the land would function perfectly well as a SANG.”

He added there were no alternative sites for a SANG in the Bournemouth area.

“Finding and developing an alternative SANG would delay the Winter Gardens and other large developments in Bournemouth. An alternative site would be equally likely to have some opposition.”

However, the Throop Village Conservation Group do not want to see a SANG created on the land and would like to see the area kept for agricultural use.

"It is ironic that an area that is the last bastion of untouched countryside adjacent to the conservation area is being used to mitigate town centre development and reduce visitor pressure elsewhere. More traffic to this area will be detrimental and have significant impact. It’s all very underhand and devious," a spokesperson for the group said.

They added they were 'disappointed' to learn of the council's plans on social media.

"We know this is simply a precursor to their intentions to develop a visitor centre at Hicks Farm. We have suggested viable alternatives, such as relocating the major gateway to Vicarage Fields at the start of the Stour Valley Nature Reserve, restoration of the farm and resuming an agricultural tenancy – sadly not even deemed worthy of a response."

Work on the SANG could start next summer, once planning permission is granted.

The public exhibitions will be held on Wednesday, September 4, from 4-8pm at Holdenhurst Village Hall and Tuesday, September 10, from 4-8pm at Muscliff Community Centre.