ADD UPDATE: 13 March 2022: Exciting plans to create a permanent new nature reserve in Bishopstoke and Fair Oak are a step closer after a vote by the Bishopstoke, Fair Oak and Horton Heath Local Area Committee of Eastleigh Borough Council (EBC) last week. The committee agreed unanimously to back a scheme drawn up by local Independent councillors Lou Parker-Jones and Gin Tidridge that would see the natural environment preserved “in perpetuity” on land currently occupied by Stoke Park Farm.
Stoke Park Farm originally made up most of the Option B part of the Eastleigh Local Plan, which would have created an urban sprawl roughly the size of Petersfield. It was removed on the direction of the planning inspector, along with adjacent Option C.
Describing the farmland as “an essential breathing space…a place of exceptional beauty”, Cllr Tidridge stressed that the intention was to create a nature reserve rather than a country park. However, she envisaged that there would be footpaths to make the land accessible to the public.
EBC has already agreed to buy the farm, which is mainly in Bishopstoke but crosses into Fair Oak, to use it for nitrate/phosphate mitigation purposes. Doing so will enable the council to meet a legal requirement set out by Natural England to offset the harmful effects of nitrogen and other chemicals from new housing entering the sea and other waterways. Because fertilisers used in agriculture also produce nitrogen, finding alternative uses for the land will satisfy this requirement.
The plan has still to be approved by a full council meeting of EBC, but appears to have the support of all political groups represented on the authority. Cllrs Michelle Marsh (Lib Dem) and Steve Broomfield (Conservative) also spoke strongly in favour.
ADD chair John Lauwerys was among members of the public to speak at the meeting and also gave the proposed nature reserve strong backing.
Helen Douglas, chair of Fair Oak and Horton Heath parish council, applauded the initiative. She called, however, for the creation of other green spaces elsewhere in the parish. She highlighted the needs of Horton Heath in particular, as it is currently undergoing extensive development.