A CONTROVERSIAL council scheme to deliver a nature park on 12 hectares of green belt land on the edge of Bournemouth has been approved by the local authority’s own planning committee.

All but one member sitting on Thursday’s BCP Council planning committee meeting voted to approve the Throop Nature Park proposal, which will see a SANG (suitable alternative natural greenspace) created at Hicks Farm.

The revised application, which came after an initial plan was refused last year, was met with hundreds of objections.

Following around two hours of questions and debate, councillors voted 10 to one to approve the new scheme.

During the meeting, Nick Perrins, BCP Council’s head of planning, said the current lack of a SANG to serve Bournemouth had led to around 1,000 homes with planning permission being put on hold.

He said there was not really an alternative site for a SANG and refusal would have “serious consequences”.

Bournemouth Echo: CGI of the Throop Nature Park. Picture: BCP CouncilCGI of the Throop Nature Park. Picture: BCP Council

“This is a really, really important proposal in the future of the BCP area, not only for the housing issue, which is absolutely critical, but also the wider benefits with public access, which this will provide,” said Mr Perrins.

“Changes have been made, which have dealt with the previous concerns in our view, and it is a much more sensitive proposal in terms of its impact on Throop, the adjacent conservation area and the other issues raised at the last planning committee.”

Committee members visited the site on Wednesday ahead of the meeting, with three councillors substituting in for those who could not attend.

Julie-Anne Houldey, of Throop Village Conservation Group, said the organisation was strongly opposed to the application.

“The message mainly is if you build it they will come,” said Ms Houldey. “This SANG was previously rejected by the planning committee and it was 12 to three against and it wasn’t just for the negative impact on the unique village setting, but for contravention of several of the council’s own core strategies.”

She said “nothing has significantly changed” from the refused scheme apart from “changes to the car park” and “the dog pond has returned”.

“Tiny tweaks do not balance all the previous reasons for refusal and we implore the committee to refuse this again,” said Ms Houldey.

Alan Davies, of Chapman Lily, who worked on the application on behalf of the local authority, said the firm made “significant and important” changes.

Cllr Beverley Dunlop, speaking in support of the plan, said: “BCP Council cannot pursue its aspirations of regenerating our towns, providing opportunities, creating jobs and building homes without having suitable alternative natural greenspace.

Bournemouth Echo: Cllr Beverley DunlopCllr Beverley Dunlop

“People need homes. It is not a ‘nice to have’, it is a basic necessity and we do not have enough homes and the shortage of these homes drives local house prices, putting them out of reach of young people and young families, who are forced into expensive rental accommodation.”

She said the SANG was the “key to unlocking those homes”.

Muscliff and Strouden Park ward councillor Lisa Northover, who represents the area where the SANG will be, said objectors raised the same issues as with the original scheme over traffic, the car park and impact on the environment. Fellow ward councillor Kieron Wilson echoed the points raised by Cllr Northover, with hundreds of residents objecting.

Cllr Stephen Bartlett said the site was around seven miles from the town centre, it was on a flood plain. it was in a conservation area, adjacent to a site of special scientific interest, with poor infrastructure and in the green belt.

Bournemouth Echo: Cllr Stephen BartlettCllr Stephen Bartlett

“You couldn’t wish for a worse set of circumstances for a SANG. On top of that, you have the lovely tranquil nature of this village setting," said Cllr Bartlett.

Cllr Ann Stribley and Cllr Jane Kelly said the decision on the scheme affected hundreds of thousands of people waiting for housing and wanting to access greenspaces.


Cllr Lawrence Williams, substituted in for Cllr Bryan Dion, said he was “really quite supportive” following the site visit.

Before voting on the application, Cllr David Kelsey, chairman of the planning committee, said: “It has been very difficult this one.

“There are lots of pros, lots of cons, lots of fors, lots of againsts.

“I think members here and members of the public have all had exactly what they want to say, said and some of them have been very, very interesting.

“Whilst this doesn’t 100 per cent fit with criteria that is set out, I think we have to bear in mind Natural England is one of major consultees in this and if it was remotely against this we would all be sitting here saying ‘no, no, no’.

“But they are actually supporting it and they can’t see any faults with it.”