RURAL watchdog the CPRE has welcomed the Tories' brownfield development plan for Newport...but warned more needs to be done to stop the Island's countryside disappearing under concrete.

Last week, the Conservative group on the Isle of Wight Council unveiled a far-reaching scheme for the county town, which could see County Hall demolished and the fire and police stations sold off to make way for a new residential Riverside Quarter, linking to the Newport Harbour plans.

While welcoming the use of so-called brownfield land, the CPRE has pointed to what it sees as unreasonable housing targets of 675 houses per year for the Island from government.

This, it says, will mean greenfield, as well as brownfield, sites being ploughed up for houses.

Only this week, the County Press reported that the Isle of Wight Council has failed the housing targets set by the government, potentially putting developers in a stronger position.

And it has called on the council to deliver on its commitment made in September 2019 to challenge nationally determined housing targets in the next Island plan.

The CPRE says the Island’s current 675-home annual target is premised on serving a significant migration to the IW, rather than focusing on local housing need of those living here.

Read more: County Hall, Fire Station and Police Station could go if Riverside Quarter plan goes ahead.

Isle of Wight County Press: The Riverside Quarter proposal area, outlined in red.The Riverside Quarter proposal area, outlined in red.

A statement says: "This target is unprecedented in the history of our Island and would entail the destruction of thousands of acres of countryside, on a scale which could not be mitigated with brownfield development alone.

"The IW CPRE therefore calls on all parties and candidates standing in the forthcoming council elections to match their commitment to brownfield-first development by pledging to appeal for “exceptional circumstance” in the next Island Plan (potentially as part of Island Park status) and pursue a bespoke housing target focused on serving local housing need, not external housing demand."

Al Haig Thomas, chairman of the IW CPRE, said: “We welcome the Riverside proposal.

"At a time when the much-valued countryside is under unprecedented threat from overdevelopment, this town-centre regeneration scheme offers an important example of the “brownfield first” development CPRE has long argued for.

"Focusing new housing on previously developed land is win-win: not only does it alleviate pressure to develop virgin countryside, it also delivers far more sustainable housing in terms of proximity to jobs, transport and infrastructure”.

“We’re delighted to see both the Conservatives and Labour pledging to limit greenfield development in their respective council manifestos."

The IW Green Party responded to the CPRE statement by saying in its For Our Future vision document released last week it pledged Green councillors would oppose inappropriate development which encroached on our countryside and led to a loss of wildlife habitats.

Read more: Greens set out For Out Future vision.

The Green statement said: "The council must review its housing and planning strategy, prioritise affordable homes and ensure planning decisions are truly accountable to residents. “

"We support the CPRE in their mission to protect our countryside and to lower the housing targets. "However, it is the Conservative government supported by Conservative councils across the country which have imposed these housing targets, and have reinforced them through Boris Johnson’s recent pledge to “Build Build Build”.

Isle of Wight County Press: Doug Alldred, Green Party candidate for Brighstone area.Doug Alldred, Green Party candidate for Brighstone area.

Doug Alldred, Green Party candidate for the rural seat of Brighstone, Calbourne and Shalfleet, said: “The type of housing we build is just as important as the number of houses, and it should be determined by the needs of Island residents rather than the housing market.

“We should ensure renewable energy use and sustainability is built into the fabric of every new build. GSHP, air heat pumps, and/or solar should be essential, as well as permanent habitat provision such as bat boxes, pollinator bricks and bird boxes.”