HUNDREDS of people from Fordingbridge and the surrounding areas are expected to attend a planning inquiry this Tuesday, after a Gypsy family launched an appeal to live on agricultural land.

Brothers Felix and Miles Connors want to live in caravans on the land, off Marl Lane, with their families.

But their plan attracted 300 letters of protest last year, and was turned down by New Forest district councillors.

The brothers have appealed and from 10am at the Town Hall a planning inspector appointed by the Government will examine their case, and hear the objections of immediate neighbours and the wider community.

Local people said they feared if the caravans were allowed it would set a dangerous precedent, and may lead to dozens of caravans on the beauty spot, which is well used by walkers, riders and families.

The brothers want to use the land as a Gypsy site for two mobile homes, with new access and entrance gates an amenity block, stable block, hardstanding and parking.

They say a permanent site would allow them to put down roots and access healthcare and schooling for their children.

There are several other planning applications at various stages around that area too - one for a couple who want to live in a mobile home on a field off Marl Lane to establish a farming business, currently going through planning, one already approved for a couple to live on agricultural land at Tinkers Cross and run their rare breeds business and another, just turned down on appeal, for a house on a farm in Marl Lane.

All these applications to build on previously untouched land have made neighbours very uneasy.

Objector Martine Browne, who lives on Marl Lane, said: “I will be attending on Tuesday and have already applied to be allowed to speak. I will be representing the residents of Marl Lane and the surrounding area.

“The sheer amount of objections received by NFDC from local residents show the strong feeling of total disbelief with regards to the scale of the proposed site and the pressure on the private roads and footpaths, which would result in increased traffic.

“According to the statement by NFDC, the applicants stated that the only reason why the site has not been used since last year is that it has been totally inaccessible for caravans.

“I would strongly urge everyone who originally put in an objection to make every effort to attend the inquiry.

“Since the green space off Marl Lane and Puddleslosh Lane has recently seen such drastic changes in the last few months due to the sale of agricultural land in that area, it is vitally important that all residents of Fordingbridge show a united front.

“We cannot just sit back and watch all of our important local recreational countryside further eroded by casual individuals submitting ad hoc retrospective planning applications on agricultural land which are in conflict with local, county and indeed national planning laws.

“The land is agricultural and should stay as such - regardless of who you are.”