Planning consent creates once-in-a-lifetime dream

Hants has seen very few major sales in recent years but the county is set to be much busier in 2006 with a number of sizeable property launches expected soon.

However, it is Mark McAndrew of Strutt & Parker’s London office who will be first out of the blocks with the £6m sale of a 1120-acre block of rolling farmland that offers the potential to create a stunning and extremely private 21st century sporting and agricultural estate.

Nigel and Muriel Potter had always dreamt of building their ideal home in the heart of The Forest Farm Estate two miles from King’s Somborne, near Winchester, which was purchased in 1969.

And in the summer of 2005, after a long battle with Test Valley Borough Council, they eventually received permission to create a substantial 16,400sq ft house to complement four existing estate cottages.

Sadly, however, country sports enthusiast Dr Potter suffered a stroke while fishing in the same week that the consent was granted and decided reluctantly that the project now involved to much work for him and Mrs Potter.

“The house was going to be the crowning glory, but we’re in a different age bracket now to when we first started the planning process.”

For Dr Potter, an entomologist and keen conservationist, the decision was particularly difficult because he had invested huge amounts of time, effort and money improving the estate by planting hedges and creating new woodland, as well as building up an excellent 18-day, 250-bird shoot.

“When wheat was £140/t it wasn’t so difficult to spend some money looking after the countryside.”

The estate’s chalk grassland supports 19 species of wild orchids as well as 32 species of butterfly, and the new entry and higher level environmental schemes offered even more potential to improve wildlife habitat, said Dr Potter.

“We’ve been crying out for HLS.”

But he hasn’t neglected the farming side of the business either and the land has consistently yielded 4t/acre of wheat and 3t/acre of malting barley.

There is also 4000t of grain storage.

Mr McAndrew said it would be fascinating to see what potential buyers the sale drew out, although he was sure anybody bidding would take advantage of the planning consent and build their own house.

“It could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The estate is so secluded you would never know it existed if you hadn’t been invited, I’ve rarely seen anything so attractive and the only footpaths just cut across the corners.”

Whoever does buy the estate, the Potter’s legacy will remain intact.

A condition attached by the planners – with Dr Potter’s approval – means that most of the land cannot be sold without the house.