Campaigners are fighting plans to build 450 homes on farmland in Fleet.

FACE IT (Fleet and Crookham Environment Is Threatened) fears the Berkeley Homes Southern plan for fields at Grove Farm and Netherhouse Copse will ruin an area of ancient woodland.

In October last year, Boyer Planning wrote to Hart District Council on behalf of Berkeley asking if an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) was needed for the site before a planning application could be submitted.

The following month Hart ruled an EIA was needed and is now deciding exactly what topics need to be addressed by way of a scoping opinion.

Max Clark, vice-chairman of FACE IT, and other group members have visited the site to consider the proposals.

He pointed out the knoll known locally as the Tump, a distinctive local landmark and a natural break between the built-up area of Fleet and the Hart Valley.

Mr Clark is worried that Hart’s assessment of the site includes the possibility that the hilly area could be partially removed to permit development.

“This would involve huge earthworks, completely change the nature of the site and the area, and destroy one of the few remaining areas where skylarks can be seen and heard,” Mr Clark warned.

“It is yet another bolt-on development to Fleet in a site that is not a suitable location for large-scale housing development.

“Development here would cause environmental damage, and will cause additional infrastructure issues with a road system already overburdened with significant other local developments.”

FACE IT said it was ‘particularly important’ that Grove Farm, Pilcot Farm and Cross Farm are maintained as a ‘green gap’ to preserve the village identities of Crookham Village and Dogmersfield and to prevent their coalescence with Fleet and Church Crookham.

The group points out that the valley of the River Hart to the west of Fleet and around Crookham Village and Dogmersfield is more biodiverse than some nearby designated areas, with important populations of some of England’s most threatened and iconic wildlife and habitats.

It adds the site includes many important species of birds, including skylark, yellowhammer, reed bunting and northern lapwing.

“Development of Grove Farm would destroy the core of this population,” warned Mr Clark.

FACE IT points out there are already insufficient secondary school places in the Fleet area, while local roads are already at capacity.

“The site is over two miles from Fleet centre and the station, making walking and cycling unlikely, and there is poor public transport,” added Mr Clark. “The population of Fleet has increased by 9,000 in the last 10 years, but no new GP surgeries have been built to accommodate this significant increase in population. Existing surgeries are already overloaded and need further investment.”

Berkeley, which has the option to buy the land from a private landowner, points out the surrounding area has recently seen the development of the Edenbrook estate with a total of 357 homes.

In an attempt to show the principle of developing that area of land has already been accepted by Hart, it added the Netherhouse Copse site was part of the West Fleet strategic location in Hart's preferred approach document of July 2011.

Berkeley said 10 topics should be assessed including transport, air quality and landscape and visual impact.

Hart aims to make a decision on the topics that should be addressed by statutory consultees by March 18.