PLANS to build affordable housing in Hale have “divided” residents in the village.

A packed meeting was held in the village hall on Friday with representatives from the New Forest National Park Authority, New Forest District Council and Hale Village Community Land Trust (CLT), which aims to build and manage a “small number of affordable properties” in the village.

Concerns raised by residents included the need for possible locations to be specified, the impact on the environment not just in the village but also the national park as well as fears a development could set a precedent.

No planning applications have yet been submitted.

Catherine Whitmarsh, of the CLT, said the cost of ownership in the village had “escalated out of all proportion” compared to the average earnings and was now “way out of reach of most local people to buy or rent homes in the village”.

The meeting heard average house prices in the New Forest were 15 times the average earnings.

She said social housing had been lost as affordable housing through right to buy, which meant there was “no alternative” for those who had grown up in the village but to move away, adding: "The sad result of this, will eventually be that Hale will become a retirement village where people who have had successful lives in the cities will live to the exclusion of all others.”

Catherine added: “Unless we take action now to address this by finding more affordable housing in the village. Providing houses for working age people we will retain the services of such people in the village for the benefit of everyone.”

The meeting heard the CLT would be looking to build “no more than maybe two or possibly three units” on a particular site but this would depend on the land.

When pressed by residents, the CLT said the one site it was currently looking at was Folly Hill but it was looking for other sites.

Another resident said: “The concept of affordable housing is excellent but in my opinion Hale is totally the wrong location.”

She added: “In my opinion it would be a complete travesty to build extra houses in Hale, private or affordable, especially within the cattle grid boundaries of our lovely village, close to conservation areas and sites of special scientific interest. Extra houses would put added pressure on our environment in terms of more traffic, light and noise pollution.”

She also said the public meeting was “long overdue” and had this opportunity be given when the CLT first had the idea “much of the stress, anxiety, anger, bitterness and division this village has endured could have been prevented”.

However, the meeting heard the CLT had held two public meetings.

Concerns were also raised that it could set a precedent for future development.

However, Steve Avery, of the New Forest National Park Authority, said this was not the case.

Resident Douglas Gemmell said it was a “highly protected area” and it was “totally irrational that it could be considered acceptable”. Housing need or whether it was just “desirable” was also questioned by members of the public.

Resident Gaby Lucas said: “I feel that we are incredible lucky to live in this absolutely, stunningly beautiful environment but I also feel we have a duty to protect it. But we also have a duty to give back because our children can’t afford to live in this area, nobody can, unless they are over 55 or very few people because there are no properties under £250,000.”

Mark Clark said the topography of Hale made it a “very difficult place to build on” adding that to do affordable housing landowners in the village needed to get together with the planning authority to try and find suitable areas.

And resident Chris Fairgrieve questioned whether the affordable housing could remain under the control of the CLT and if there was a risk of it becoming right to buy. He also questioned how two or three houses would improve the age or income demographic of the village.

He told the meeting many residents were “unhappy or concerned” and called on New Forest and Hampshire County councillor Edward Heron to “restore some sort of peace and tranquility in the village”.

Cllr Edward Heron said affordable housing was for the community to decide, adding: “Community Land Trusts are meant to bring decisions closer to the community not further away. For some reason this CLT is not seen as belonging to everyone.”

He urged residents to get involved to have their voices heard.

He said: “We need to work together to come to a consensus and move forward.”