A CAMPAIGN has been launched for a new nature reserve at a soon-to-be vacated military base near Winchester.

Local people are concerned that open space at Sir John Moore Barracks could be developed once the Army Training Regiment departs, expected by 2024.

Littleton and Harestock Parish Council is proposing a 25-hectare reserve in the northern section of the barracks at Flowerdown.

It is in discussions with the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) over its plans for the future of the barracks which opened in the mid-1980s. Proposals have included a variety of housing, a business park, community facilities and park and ride.

The parish council wants to protect and enhance the biodiversity of the northern area which is home to a wide array of flora and fauna, including hedgehogs, rare butterflies, fireflies, slow worms, glow worms, deer, owls, bats, dormice, and many other species.

It argues new Local Nature Reserve would play an important role in the future of north Winchester with thousands of homes earmarked including 2,000 at Barton Farm also known as Kings Barton.

Flowerdown was a top-secret listening base during World War II feeding information to the code breakers at Bletchley Park; plans for an integrated heritage trail within the site are also in discussion.

The reserve idea is backed by MP Steve Brine and Debbie Tann, chief executive of Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. Both have written to the DIO.

Mr Brine said: “We are all rightly focused on the climate emergency and the need to protect and enhance local ecosystems. This environmentally rich land to the north of Flowerdown is so important and creating a local nature reserve here would help protect endangered species, enhance biodiversity, and provide a space for health and wellbeing now and for future generations. I can’t think of a better project to go hand in hand with the proposed development and it happening is, in my opinion, a critical component in the city council taking the community with it as the MoD depart Sir John Moore Barracks.”

George Sallis, chairman of the Littleton and Harestock Parish Council, told the Chronicle: “I am encouraged by discussions thus far with the DIO major disposal division who clearly understand the need, long-term benefits and community feeling to make this local nature reserve happen. We know that the 25 hectares outside the security fence in the north of the site is extremely important environmentally and historically and would be of huge benefit to the area now and in the future. We are not in principle opposed to the legitimate 40 hectares of brownfield development, or the planned park and ride if it is moved to a more suitable location outside of the countryside space.”

Ms Tann, in a letter to the DIO, said: "Covid-19 has made many of us recognise the importance of creating space for nature close to where people live. Evidence demonstrates the importance of green and natural spaces for physical and mental wellbeing, and for the future health and vitality of our communities. We believe that this Local Nature Reserve could provide essential connection to wild and green space, contributing to improving health and wellbeing of local people."