Protesters against East Hampshire District Council’s Local Plan proposal to build 1,250 houses on Neatham Down in Alton held a nature walk there on Sunday to highlight its beauty. 

Local authorities and environmental groups joining the Alton-wide campaign include Alton Town Council, Binsted Parish Council, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the River Wey Trust.

Chief among their objections is a contention that the new town would contravene new government policy stating Green Belt boundaries “can only be altered where exceptional circumstances are fully evidenced and justified”.

“There is little evidence that the current strategy considers brownfield first,” reads Alton Town Council’s draft response, which is due to be debated at an extraordinary full council meeting tonight (Wednesday).

“Therefore the plan may not be consistent with national policy or justified.”

This week campaigners were thrown a lifeline when district councillors admitted their draft Local Plan was “out of date” since Michael Gove, secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities, published the new policy in December, and revealed that planning officers were busily re-writing it.

Green activists have now weighed in, claiming the siting of a large new town on the banks of the upper River Wey, a chalk stream with resident populations of kingfishers, egrets, stoats and wild brown trout, would also be illegal under legislation currently before parliament.

“The Local Plan needs to take note of the government position on such environments, all of which are designated as star stressed,” wrote Alistair Young of the River Wey Trust.

“Developing at scale on the aquifer and within the chalk stream catchment in this fashion is counter to government policy.”

The Local Plan consultation ends on March 4.

Save Neatham Down is at