CIVIC chiefs have approved a planning blueprint in a move that clears the way for 10,000 new homes to be built in the New Forest.

The new Local Plan, which pinpoints sites considered suitable for housing, was given the nod at a district council meeting following a public consultation carried out last year.

It means that a huge number of homes are likely to be built outside the New Forest National Park between now and 2036.

One of the most contentious sites in the new document is green belt land beside Oakhaven Hospice in Lower Pennington Lane, Pennington.

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The prospect of around 100 homes springing up near the hospice has been criticised by locals and Oakhaven itself, but a move to delete the site from the Local Plan was defeated.

Some members of the ruling Conservative group on the council criticised parts of the document.

But it was approved amid fears a "no" vote would result in the government imposing its own housing quota on the Forest, possibly leading to the construction of up to 20,000 new homes.

Cllr Maureen Holding said: “I do not like this plan - I do not think it will do justice to the Forest.

“But we have to vote for it because it’s being imposed by central government and if we do not we will lose control completely. Reluctantly, I will vote for it."

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The decision means developers are more likely to obtain planning permission to build houses on the sites identified in the document.

They include land south of the former Fawley power station, where 120 homes are proposed to be built as part of a £1bn plan to redevelop the 300-acre site.

Speaking after the meeting Cllr David Harrison, leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group, said: "The Local Plan is a really important step, setting out where exactly housing can be built.

"However, the whole process is rather spoiled by excessive government demands for housing targets that don't take into account that much of the New Forest is national park, where development is constrained.

"As a result, local councillors are forced to accept development in areas where we would not choose to do so.

"The Conservatives all voted in favour of the plan, even though they say they hate some aspects of it.

"I think they allowed themselves to be bullied. They were told the consequences of not supporting it would be worse than doing so."