CONTROVERSIAL plans to build housing on Highcliffe woodland have been refused.

More than 300 people objected to Brentland Ltd’s plans to develop 23 homes on land off Jesmond Avenue.

And concerns about the environmental impact of the development have prompted BCP Council to refuse planning permission for it.

The application was the third put forward for the site, land bought by Hampshire County Council in 1964 for the construction of a bypass before being resold to landowner Boyland and Son in 2017 after the plan was abandoned.

In 2018 Christchurch council refused the first scheme, which also included a care home, while the second set of plans was withdrawn last year.

The latest outline application was submitted in November with a statement submitted on behalf of the developer saying the development would make “more efficient use of urban land”.

“The design and finish are appropriate to the locality and the design has been carefully conceived to avoid harm to neighbour amenity and ensure that a comfortable relationship subsists,” it said.

But 330 objections to the application were lodged, including ones from Natural England, a council biodiversity officer and Highcliffe and Walkford Parish Council.

Concerns were also raised by the Woodland Trust, which said the site could be unmapped ancient woodland, and Dorset Wildlife Trust.

Natural England said the development would “significantly impact on the ecological function of the area”.

“The assemblage of woodland species and the evidence from surveys clearly show that the application site is a priority habitat of biodiversity value which would be substantively lost if the application was allowed,” it said. “Such habitats cannot be readily recreated if such a location was currently available given that they take hundreds of years to establish into a functional and structured woodland.”

Dorset Wildlife Trust said the woodland “could not recover” if it was lost.

These concerns have been echoed by council planning officers who refused planning permission on Thursday.

“It is considered the amount of tree loss is significant and will have an irreversible impact on the quality of this pocket of woodland and erode the sylvan character of this part of Lymington Road and Jesmond Avenue,” the planning report said.

It added that the “environmental harm” of the development, including the loss of trees and “valuable habitat”, was not outweighed by the benefits of increasing housing supply.