HART'S next new minitown took another step towards reality this week when building firm Bryant Homes, part of Taylor Woodrow, announced that it had bought the former Gurkha camp at Church Crookham from the Ministry of Defence.

Bryant has christened the former Queen Elizabeth Barracks site Khukri Park, (a spelling variation on the famous Gurkha weapon), and it hopes to start construction in the Spring with the first homes being released for sale at the end of next year or early in 2004.

The Gurkhas pulled out just two years ago and the adjoining officers' quarters at Wakefield Copse will be included in the 193 acre development. Recently Hart won a planning appeal over land at Hitches Lane, Fleet, on the grounds that if Queen Elizabeth Barracks went ahead it would meet the district's new home requirements for the period to 2006.

No figure has been given for the cost of the purchase - which is said to be Bryant's biggest ever. A spokeswoman said the price was dependent on planning permission. She added that the firm would now enter into planning talks with Hart with the aim of outline planning permission being obtained early next year.

Bryant aims to build about 1,100 new homes on 60 acres while retaining extensive existing areas of open grassland and mature woodland. It says a new neighbourhood centre would be created to complement the homes, incorporating a new primary school, a community building, a medical centre, a pharmacy and shops.

A quarter of the new homes would be allocated to "affordable housing" to attract key workers such as teachers to the area.

John Beresford, senior land manager for Bryant Homes, commented: "This development opportunity is situated on the North Hampshire and Surrey border and has good rail links. Our aim is to provide an award winning scheme with a wide variety of innovative new homes to suit a range of customers.

"The development of such brownfield sites as sustainable living and working environments is vital to the government's policy to tackle the housing shortage whilst minimising the use of greenfield sites."