LAND on the edge of Basingstoke earmarked for 2,500 new homes should be protected, according to a countryside charity.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) carried out an assessment of the countryside around Cliddesden set to be home to the Upper Swallick development.

It claims that the 296 hectare site is classified as 'valued landscape' and it should be protected.

CPRE Hampshire claims it has an "important contribution" to the characteristics of the Basingstoke Open Downs.

Christopher Napier, of CPRE Hampshire, said: "Landscapes play a vital role in tackling the climate emergency by capturing carbon, cleaning the air, helping to slow flood waters and providing habitats for wildlife.

The proposed Upper Swallick project. Photo credit: MHP Design Ltd

The proposed Upper Swallick project. Photo credit: MHP Design Ltd

"As a feature of open countryside and green space, they are also important to people’s health and wellbeing, something that has been proved during the coronavirus pandemic.

"The National Planning Policy Framework sets out that planning policies and decisions should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment by protecting and enhancing Valued Landscapes.

"We strongly advocate that all local planning authorities in Hampshire carry out landscape assessments in the process of revising their Local Plans.

"This would ensure that where they exist, they are protected in Local Plans for current and future generations.

"CPRE Hampshire’s assessment work highlights the importance of considering new development in terms of landscape suitability and the setting of the natural environment."

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about the 2,500-home Upper Swallick project in Basingstoke

The site is part of the North Hampshire Downs, which stretched from the M3 to Farnham, and also extends from Farleigh Wallop to the Grade I listed Hackwood Park.

The land is currently owned by the Portsmouth Estate. It's trustee, Lord Oliver Lymington, told The Gazette last week that his intention was to create a legacy for generations to come.

Early plans for the Upper Swallick Garden Community, south of the M3

Early plans for the Upper Swallick Garden Community, south of the M3

“As the council’s Local Plan update is in its early stages of consideration, I now believe it is the right time for the estate to commit to doing its part to help with the current housing supply and affordability crisis, facing both younger and older generations," he continued.

"There have to be benefits for all the residents of the borough in what we aim to do.

“I also recognise that a new garden community must have a greater impact than just its effect on the Portsmouth Estate."

You can see more of his interview here.

It comes as a petition set up to oppose the development nears its target of 7,500 signatures.

At the time of writing, just over 7,000 people have signed a petition organised by Stand up for North Hampshire Downs (STaNHD).

You can see the petition here.