NEW HOMES in the New Forest could be restricted to just three bedrooms in size.

The policy is just one of a number of measures and changes in the New Forest plan which aims to protect the environment and provide facilities to suit locals.

But there was better news for developers because the plan also allows for a near doubling of new houses built in the National Park - from 25 a year to 40. However, a 'significant proportion' of these sites must be affordable to meet local housing needs, the National Park Authority says. The average price of a property in the Forest is £414,000.

Most of the new properties will be on sites which have existing planning consents, on brownfield sites or ‘windfall’ development which becomes available unexpectedly.

The new planning rules also allow for a lower site size threshold for new developments (three dwellings or more) to make provision for affordable housing. It also proposes keeping the existing policy that all homes on ‘rural exception’ sites should be affordable.

Care home development will also be restricted, "to cater for local people, rather than external demand".

In a statement the NFNPA said: "There is also more support for affordable housing and commoners’ dwellings, safeguarding areas of tranquillity, and protecting the Forest’s landscape character, trees and historic environment.

"Existing planning policies to protect, maintain and enhance nationally, regionally and locally-important sites and features of the natural environment – including habitats and species of biodiversity importance, geological features and the water environment – are retained in the new plan."

The authority said the "limited development planned for the National Park focuses on meeting the needs of local people and ensuring the area remains a living, working landscape".

And it warned that it would ensure a "high bar is set" and would require "robust justification" for any such new development proposals.

The policy review, which lead to the new plan began in 2015 and included several rounds of consultation with the public and a wide range of organisations. It was also examined by the Secretary of State to ensure it was justified and supported by robust evidence in areas such as sustainability, wildlife habitats and housing land availability.

New Forest National Park Authority Chairman, Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre, said: "Our planning policies play a key role in protecting the National Park’s special qualities and wildlife, supporting the local economy and conserving the distinctive New Forest character of our villages and rural areas.

"This updated Local Plan is an extremely significant step for the Authority and allows our planning service to continue its important work in helping to protect and enhance the Forest for future generations."

n The new Local Plan can be viewed at