A HAMPSHIRE charity has been given planning permission to build a new facility where visiting groups of children can focus on the issue of climate change.

Civic chiefs have supported proposals to build a learning and exhibition centre at the headquarters of the Countryside Education Trust (CET) in Palace Lane, Beaulieu.

The new building will be used to educate people about climate change and its impact on the New Forest.

Home Farm is part of the Beaulieu Conservation Area but the application has been approved by the New Forest National Park Authority (NPA).

A report to members said the proposed new building - Fort Climate Change - would not be visible from outside the site and would meet the need for new developments to be small-scale.

The scheme is being funded by the Fort Foundation, headed by Dr Ted Short of nearby Buckler's Hard.

Lord Montagu, chairman of the CET, said: "This is a marvellous and exciting donation which will help shape the future of what we can accomplish as restrictions begin to ease.

"Dr Fort has long been a standard bearer for climate change issues and this facility will bring that debate into the heart of the New Forest.

"We hope we can play our part in enabling informed conversations and learning for people of all ages around this vital issue."

The CET's chief executive, Jane Cooper, added: "Like many charities we've had an incredibly challenging year, with no ability to earn income since last March.

"It's been so sad not having children on site. For some, their residential visit is their only opportunity to be in the countryside.

"Outdoor education has been overlooked by government and there remains no guidance around when we'll will be able to re-open to residential visitors and no specific financial support.

"Two centres are closing every week and tragically about a third of people within the sector have lost their jobs.

"At the same time the pandemic has shown how vital a sense of connection with nature is for everyone. We're determined to ensure we continue to reach those who lack the opportunities for such connection in the future.

"Dr Fort has always been a wonderful supporter, and with the gift of this new building it feels as if spring is coming to the Trust."