English Nature has widened its housebuilding embargo to the neighbouring South-west.

The wildlife protection watchdog has already stifled the provision of land for accommodation across large parts of the Home Counties, including the Surrey Heath area around Camberley. Now officials have held a meeting with planners in east Dorset to outline proposals for similar curbs.

The watchdog said planning applications for all new homes within a 400 m radius of the Dorset Heath special protection area should be turned down. And it says developers wanting to build within 5 km of the SPA’s boundaries, must provide open spaces to reduce pressure on the area, which contains the habitats of several rare bird species, including the Dartford warbler.

But it has lifted its initial threat to introduce a blanket ban on all new development within the 5 km zone, pending moves by the councils to draw up a strategy that will involve developers paying out extra section 106 contributions for heath protection measures.

Housing development across much of east Dorset is threatened by the clampdown, which will affect the boroughs of Bournemouth, Christchurch, East Dorset, Poole and Purbeck.

We are concerned about the situation spreading to other areas. If it does we need to take it up with government

John Slaughter, HBF

The area affected is increased by the fragmented nature of the SPA, which is divided up into a number of scattered pockets of land. Bournemouth and Poole are earmarked in the draft South-west regional spatial strategy as two of the region’s sources of new housing over the next 20 years.

The Home Builders Federation estimates that up to 20,000 new homes may not be built if EN repeats the hard line it has taken in the Surrey Heath are. The embargo there, which also covers parts of Berkshire and Hampshire, threatens to create a shortfall of 40,000 dwellings.

Peter Watson, head of planning at Poole council, said in his borough alone, at least 100 homes a year would not be built as a result of the curbs.

John Slaughter, HBF head of external affairs, said: “It’s been our concern that the same situation would spread to other areas. If that happens, then it’s going to be a significant issue that we need to take to the government. I very much hope that we can do things in a different way.”