COUNCILLORS have questioned how the Local Plan for the New Forest District Council will address employment opportunities in Fordingbridge as the population increases.

New Forest District councillor, Edward Heron, who is also a Hampshire county councillor, was asked about the Local Plan during a meeting of Fordingbridge Town Council earlier this month.

He said: “We are looking at having increases in housing that does not translate to a similar level of population increase because part of the reason as a district as a whole we need more houses if we are seeing a far greater increase in household formations against population.”

He said as people were getting older and retiring they were tending to stay in their homes. This, he said, meant there was a “greater increase” in one or two person households and that there was also demand for two to three bedroom properties for young people moving or starting families.

“That is why a large part of development we are seeing coming into the Forest is a demographic shift, which is also why [in] large parts of the Forest, despite all this housing, we are expecting the working age to decrease not increase,” he added.

“Actually, Fordingbridge is a bit of an anomaly in that the fact you are one of the few areas where we are expecting a small increase in the working age population over the plan period. We have allocated some strategic sites within Local Plan part one which is coming through.”

The meeting heard as part of this work a survey looking at business needs and property assessment had been done.

Cllr Heron said additional employment in Fordingbridge would come about through the “redevelopment of existing employment sites” but there were “no strategic allocations for new employment land” in the Local Plan.

Councillor Paul Anstey said there would be “additional people coming in” as well as people getting older who may wish to work locally rather than commuting.

But Cllr Heron said there was a “shift” in the way people were working with home-working rather than being office based. He also said the district council was in the process of finalising its new corporate plan where employment and business will be a “key” issue.

Councillors Mike Jackson and Malcolm Adams questioned where the sites were in the town and if they could be redeveloped.

The meeting heard there were sites in Whitsbury Lane and Green Lane.

Cllr Jackson said this was a “serious concern” for the town.

Cllr Heron said this could be explored further in the town council’s neighbourhood plan.