The CAMPAIGNERS have won the final round of their long battle to prevent a former police station from being replaced by 32 retirement apartments.
A government-appointed planning inspector has rejected a proposal to demolish the redundant Hampshire Police building in Southampton Road, Lymington, and redevelop the site.
The demand prompted nearly 80 letters of opposition and a protest petition signed by more than 1,400 people.
Members of New Forest District Council refused the scheme in 2021 after going against the advice of officers.
READ MORE: Dispute over the future of the old police station in Southampton Road, Lymington
Speakers at a planning committee meeting said Lymington already had a large supply of flats for retirees – many of which remained unsold – and needed affordable housing for young people.
Cllr Malcolm Wade said: ‘We cannot turn the New Forest into a giant care home.
Other members criticized the design of the proposed development. Cllr Maureen Holding, former chairwoman of the authority, said: ‘It has gone from a police station to a prison.
Don Mackenzie, representing the Lymington Society, described the proposed development as a “monolithic block”. He added that 12 parking spaces for 32 apartments was “just laughable”.
Andy Ash-Vie, representing Lymington and Pennington City Council, added: “It’s ugly, overbearing and out of place.”
The claimant, Churchill Retirement Living, said the site was in a very accessible location, making it age-friendly and making a positive contribution to the local economy.
READ MORE: Activists speak out over plan of former Lymington Police Station
Churchill appealed after the application was denied, but planning inspector Jessica Powis upheld the council’s decision following a public inquiry.
She said: “The New Forest has a considerably older population than the national average, with people aged 65 and over accounting for 29.7% of the population in 2020.
“This is expected to increase over the next two decades, reaching approximately 37.4% of the district’s population by 2040.
“I do not consider that the proposed development would result in an overprovision of specialist housing for older people in the city, given the scale of the needs identified.”
However, Ms Powis said the proposed development, together with other plans and projects in the area, was likely to have a significant impact on nature conservation sites.
Campaigners welcomed the inspector’s decision, but Churchill may decide to submit a revised scheme.