A BBC wildlife expert has branded plans for housing near Winchester as a “piece of eco-vandalism”.

Naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham has criticised Eastleigh Council's development plan, which he described as, “eco-vandalism.”

The presenter of BBC's Springwatch, Autumnwatch and Winterwatch has given his backing to Action Against Destructive Development (ADD), who are fighting the council over its emerging Local Plan, due to be published later this year.

The pressure group was set up to fight Options B and C of the plan, which would see more than 6,000 homes and a new road in Fair Oak and Bishopstoke.

The proposed development would see houses near ancient woodland such as Stoke Park Woods, Upper Barn and Crowdhill Copse woods.

If plans are approved the new access road would go through open countryside close to the River Itchen.

As previously reported in the Chronicle, MEP Keith Taylor said that failing to look after the river could mean the UK facing charges in the EU's Court of Justice.

Chris said if the options B and C went ahead they would have an impact on wildlife.

“It is desperately important that people get behind the campaign to prevent this piece of eco-vandalism,” he said.

“The council is guilty of shabby politics. The plans are bad for wildlife and bad for humans. Of course, we need houses, but there are better places in the borough to build them.

“Green space is an essential component to a happy and healthy life. It's there to exercise, walk the dog, engage with nature, reduce stress and benefit mental health.

“This is short-sighted short-termism motivated by ill-informed, ill-educated people who care little for their children's and grand children's futures.

“The threatened stretch of the River Itchen is of national importance and incredibly rich in rare freshwater life, which councils should be doing all they can to protect.

“Stoke Park Woods are where I learnt about wildlife as a kid, where I discovered my first Kestrel nest.

“They are a huge asset and would never recover if the plans went ahead.

“The national park would also suffer from a dramatic increase in traffic and pollution. The human race will not survive if it treats wildlife and the environment in this way.”

In 2003 Packham wrote the foreword to a document entitled Wild About Eastleigh, which promoted the council’s biodiversity plans.

Some of the sites featured in that document are now included in Option B of the Local Plan.

“That was in the good old days when the council showed creativity and sensitivity, and a genuine commitment to a sustainable future,” Chris added.

ADD campaigner Gin Tidridge said: “We are naturally delighted that a wildlife expert as eminent as Chris Packham has given us his backing.

“His support totally justifies our view that Options B and C would be the worst possible outcomes for the environment, for wildlife and for human beings.”