THE Angling Trust has written to Eastleigh Borough Council to protest about potential development plans that it says endangers the health of the River Itchen.

The letter states: “The trust, as the national representative body for all forms of recreational fishing, is concerned that plans to build thousands of homes on or near the river Itchen’s Special Area of Conservation would cause irreparable damage to one of the world’s most iconic chalkstreams.

“It must be remembered that it is an offence under EU law to damage an SAC and were this to happen the UK could be found wanting by the Court of Justice.

“The trust has been contacted by concerned anglers and fishery owners on the river Itchen regarding the potential damage that these proposals could inflict. There is little doubt that the proposed river crossing will have an impact on the habitat of two SAC species - Southern Damsel flies and Salmon.

“There is also the likelihood that housing development will lead to more fine silt smothering invertebrates and salmon redds of which there are usually many in the Bishopstoke area. The council has to bear in mind that the UK has 85 per cent of the world’s chalk streams and that there are already concerns from the Environment Agency about the health of the river which, in the eyes of anglers worldwide, is a national treasure.

“We are particularly concerned that the Bishopstoke Angling Club which has spent decades caring for the river could suffer quite needlessly and its very existence could be called into question.

“We should never forget that given its place in angling history the river has, until now, set a standard almost unmatched anywhere else and any damage would brand the council as ecological vandals. “We hope you will take these points into consideration before making any final recommendations.”

The council has pinpointed the Bishopstoke area for housing and land north towards Colden Common for a major new feeder road.

A protest group, called ADD, is campaigning to halt the plans.