Hampshire MPs have blasted plans to axe a New Forest activities centre and four similar sites across the UK.

Girlguiding UK came under fire during a House of Commons debate hosted by Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage, who described the proposed closures as "bizarre".

Sir Julian Lewis, who represents New Forest East, added: "I have been watching this developing disaster with increasing horror."

As reported in the Daily Echo, the Foxlease complex at Clayhill, Lyndhurst, is one of five outdoor centres that are due to be sold off at the end of the year. Girlguiding UK has defended its proposal, saying it would cost more than £20m to bring the sites up to standard.

Bournemouth Echo: The Foxlease site at Lyndhurst is used by thousands of young people every yearThe Foxlease site at Lyndhurst is used by thousands of young people every year (Image: Newsquest.)

Since the planned closures were announced in May two protest petitions have been signed by a total of more than 57,000 people.

Dame Caroline told the Commons: "It has been an incredibly difficult few years for children and young adults.

"The damage caused by Covid is impossible to fully ascertain, but NHS figures show the number of children seeking help for their mental health has risen by almost 50 per cent since the start of the pandemic.

READ MORE: Campaigners celebrate 'incredibly positive step forward' in battle to save Foxlease

"We all know that outdoor activities and spending time with friends in nature are good for people's mental wellbeing.

"We need more opportunities for young people to have fun and spend time outdoors, and to socialise and be children."

Bournemouth Echo: Foxlease is one of five sites due to be closed by Girlguilding UK at the end of the yearFoxlease is one of five sites due to be closed by Girlguilding UK at the end of the year (Image: Foxies Future)

Dame Caroline complained that young people were spending more time "cooped up indoors" on their phones.

"Now is the time to provide more opportunities for them to get out and do something fun and adventurous," she said.

READ MORE: New Forest East MP Julian Lewis joins campaign to prevent Foxlease closure

Sir Julian suggested that the proposed closures resulted from Girlguiding UK's "disastrous venture" into property investment.

He claimed it had spent millions on its headquarters and "millions more on a hotel venture that went bust", resulting in the organisation being owed nearly £2.8m in unpaid rent.

Dame Caroline described his comments as "incredibly worrying".

She added: "The activity centres do not just serve young girls in Girlguiding, they run courses and activities and provide opportunities for all sorts of young people, including schools and many others.

"Once the centres are sold off there is no bringing them back. They will simply be turned into another relic of a wonderful past where children could be children."

Caroline Nokes, MP for Romsey and Southampton North, also spoke out in support of Foxlease.

Girlguiding UK has been contacted for comment.