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Pressures on the Hampshire Countryside

Vicky Marr
By Vicky Marr
22nd June 2023

The main picture we often have in our minds of the Hampshire countryside is one of peace and beauty.

A place where we can go back to nature, enjoy views for miles, delight in the fauna and flora and see the clear waters bubble up and flow down the globally rare chalk streams. With two national parks, the South Downs and the New Forest, 3 Areas of Outstanding Beauty, areas designated for nature conservation and stretches of protected coastline, we are exceptionally fortunate to have this on our doorstep.

However, much like the sleek and elegant swan on the top of the water, there is mad swirl of pressures and threat that exists under the dark waterline. CPRE Hampshire works hard to ensure these issues are brought to the forefront and considered in a balanced and appropriate way. So, what are these core issues? This article aims to highlight some of main pressures currently in the mix.

Demand for housing

This is one of the main areas of consideration for CPRE Hampshire. Starting with getting the housing target numbers right, we believe the current system for calculations is inaccurate and out of date.

Housing development should meet actual need but be in the appropriate place with appropriate infrastructure, priced to be affordable and with consideration of impact on valued landscapes, the biodiversity of an area and climate change and environmental factors.

We believe housing needs to be of the right kind, in the right place and at the right price. Brownfield site development first, affordability and sustainable design is key.

Renewable energy

Whilst some coastal wind farms are possible, Hampshire is just not that windy, which means it’s better suited to solar energy. At CPRE Hampshire we fully support the implementation of renewable energy. However, there are risks here that should be fully considered and managed carefully.

As with housing development, the site of any renewable energy facilities needs to be managed carefully. With the potential to eat away at huge chunks of land, we believe that again, brownfield sites should be first with solar panels fitted on existing industrial units and building developments, rather than brand new sites being created. Where new solar farms are considered appropriate, the best and most versatile land in terms of agriculture, food production and landscape should be protected.

Water supply and sewage removal

We are very fortunate in Hampshire to have some of the world’s most renowned and globally rare chalk streams. If you’ve been brought up or lived in Hampshire for a long time, you might think the white chalk beds are normal. They really aren’t. The biodiversity of these rivers is quite unique.

Hampshire is also a large county that has a limited amount of natural water supplies and water is a precious commodity. The water taken from the River’s Itchen and Test does not match the amount being naturally replenished. It is a deficit that is being made worse with every new property being built.

And it’s not just the water we’re taking out. It’s the water being put back in. More rain means more rainwater getting into our already busy sewers and creating leaks and flooding. That needs to be managed.

CPRE Hampshire believe both water supply and effluent removal should be considered by planning authorities in all large scale development applications.

Biodiversity

The Environment Act 2021 set out a mandatory requirement for new developments to provide a 10% Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG). CPRE Hampshire has a strong stake in the practical implication of this process through the planning system. Our view is that any BNG should be for local communities and not offset miles from the original site.

Dark skies and tranquillity

Dark night starry skies and our ability to see them clearly are one of the most magical sights the countryside can offer. Light pollution not only lights our view of these skies, but also disrupts wildlife’s natural patterns. At CPRE Hampshire, we want to reclaim our dark skies.

Litter

We have committed volunteers that run weekly roadside litter picks with the help of one of our partners, idverde. We are not only interested in clearing the countryside of litter – we also want to stop it happening in the first place.

Sustainable agriculture

Agriculture has a vital role to play in producing healthy food, managing landscapes, supporting wildlife and reducing carbon emissions. Not paying attention to how we use our valuable countryside land puts all of this at risk.

A Hampshire community connected to the countryside

Ultimately, at CPRE Hampshire, we believe that protecting our countryside resources is also about it being available and accessible to all parts of our Hampshire community. That everyone, whatever age, background or wherever they live, can feel a connection and enjoy the sense of wellbeing and peace that it offers.

Burst/Matthew Henry