Natural England advice on care home car ban branded ‘utterly bizarre’

A care home near the New Forest has been given planning permission on condition that residents are not allowed to have cars, following advice from Natural England.

The decision taken by Fareham councillors comes after Natural England responded to a consultation for the new care home, raising concerns that if future residents were not restricted from keeping cars on site, there could be a threat of recreational disturbance to the Solent’s Special Protection Areas and New Forest designated habitats.

However, the council did not accept the recommendation without reservations. Conservative councillor Michael Ford said the condition was “utterly bizarre”. 

“My first thought when I read this was, has this come out of the Soviet Union or the People's Republic of China?” he said.

Commenting to the BBC’s Local Democracy Reporter service, a spokesperson for Natural England justified the advice by saying that most visitors to New Forest designated sites start their journey from within a 13.8km radius of the site boundaries, which includes most of Fareham and the site of the proposed care home.

The spokesperson said: “It is Natural England’s advice that new residential development within this zone is likely to have a significant effect on the sites via recreational impacts, alone or in combination with other plans or projects, without suitable mitigation.”

Phone surveys had found that frequency of visits to the New Forest from Fareham was similar to those from the neighbouring borough of Eastleigh, they added.

However, Fareham’s MP, Suella Braverman, described the planning condition as “unacceptable”. She referenced the Zone of Influence report, carried out by ecological consultancy Footprint Ecology, which draws up a 13.8km radius catchment area in which it says new developments could negatively impact internationally protected sites in the New Forest. The report concluded that Fareham be excluded from the zone. 

Braverman said she was seeking further discussions with Natural England on the matter.