PLANS by the Forestry Commission to restore wetland at a Fordingbridge beauty spot, sparking outrage among wildlife experts and walkers, have been formalised with a planning application.

New Forest West MP Sir Desmond Swayne claims the application to fill-in and redirect the stream at Latchmore Brook as part of the EU funded Higher Level Stewardship Scheme, could be described as "vandalism".

He said: "Much of Islands Thorns Inclosure is designated ancient and ornamental woodland. It includes a remarkable section of stream, a site of special geological interest with deposits set down over 40 million years ago. Extraordinarily it appears this is to be infilled too.

"An intervention on such a scale along miles of stream will have major impacts on the whole catchment. Vandalism is the word that comes to my mind."

While veterinary surgeon Dr Fiona Macdonald claims the design of wetland restoration has serious implications for fish.

At the VerderersCourt on Friday, she said: "Domestic animals including fish enjoy protection under the Animal Welfare Act and must be kept in conditions appropriate to their species and needs – what a pity this is not enjoyed by their wild relatives in the New Forest."

Visitor Diana Mouzakitis said: "I have been following the application to straighten and restore the beautiful stream with great concern and worry.

"Apart from the destruction of the lovely stream I am very concerned about the massive tonnage of hoggin to fill in the present path of the stream.

"I have read and understand that in other areas of the New Forest where this has been done with a great deal of obvious damage to the surrounding areas the rerouted streams have tried to return to their original flows thus rendering all the destruction and works useless.

"It is very important that this thoughtless and destructive proposal for planning permission is not granted."

Walker Sandy Gatward said: "The Forestry Commission must be aware of the value of such rare ancient and ornamental woodland and, of course, habitat for numerous endangered species such as the kingfisher, southern damselfly and smooth snake, the disturbance of which has already resulted in a reduction.

"The removal of many trees will no doubt result in flooding, affecting the properties actually situated near to these streams and brooks.

"Perhaps lessons should be learned from the disaster of the Somerset Levels. Removing trees has a detrimental effect on the land which will take many years to put right, if at all."

Ogdens villagers Margaret and Derek Bunyard said: "Latchmore is a flourishing and well-established habitat for many protected species - birds, reptiles and fish.

"The Wetland Restoration project would use heavy machinery and thousands of tonnes of gravel, clay and hoggin to infill sections of the stream which were deepened by a few men with shovels a hundred years ago.

"And all this heavy-handed intervention is apparently necessary to make the stream more 'natural', costing tens of thousands of pounds. Surely this money could be better spent?"

Latchmore Brook was artificially deepened and widened in the mid-19th and early 20th century, to improve grazing and extend the area where trees could grow inside the Inclosures.

However, Natural England claimed this action affected the wetland ecology, who identified the area as being in an ‘unfavourable condition’.

The Forestry Commission claims the proposed works will protect the Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for future generations.

Bruce Rothnie, deputy surveyor at the Forestry Commission, said: "Natural England has identified that the Latchmore Brook in particular is under threat as a result of past drainage work.

"It’s our moral and legal responsibility to maintain and restore habitats such as this by reinstating the natural processes wherever possible. We can prevent further damage and create an ecosystem that is more robust, and also help to protect the Forest’s unique biodiversity."

Restoration proposals have been rumbling on since 2012 - sparking outrage from worried residents who joined forces and launched to fight for an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Views can be logged over the next 16 weeks on the National Park Authority planning portal. The application number is 16/00571.