CONTROVERSIAL plans to expand a children's play area above a Hampshire beach have been given the go-ahead.

Extra play equipment will be installed on a cliff-top site at Milford on Sea following a decision taken by New Forest District Council - but the scheme will be smaller than originally planned.

The council has also agreed to donate £66,034 towards the cost of the scheme, which has split the village.

In April 2016 a public consultation carried out by the parish council produced 280 responses, with 73 per cent of people saying they backed the scheme.

But a petition signed by 717 residents who objected to the plan was delivered to the district council's ruling cabinet in July last year.

Objectors claimed the extra equipment would clutter the seafront, ruining the peace and serenity of the area as well as spiling views of The Needles and the Isle of Wight.

However, the authority later received a 1,270-name petition from villagers who said the project should go-ahead.

Supporters said the existing equipment was no longer fit for purpose. They also argued that the proposed site was near a wide range of facilities including car parks and public toilets.

Now the proposal, which involves two pieces of land either side of the Needles Eye Cafe in Hurst Road, has been given the thumbs up.

Cllr Edward Heron, cabinet member for planning and infrastructure said: "We have listened to residents’ views after the parish council ran two public consultations and our cabinet received petitions both in support of and against the plans.

"We have worked with the parish council to agree a smaller area for the scheme. The equipment will be no more than four metres high."

Cllr Michael Harris, cabinet member for local economic development, property and innovation, added: "I'm delighted that we've been able to support this project, which has evolved from within the Milford on Sea community.

"The new play area will be a great addition to the already much-improved seafront, which will be enjoyed by families for generations to come."

The saga began in 2016 when parish councillors started drawing up proposals to enhance the existing play facilities beside a large expanse of grassland above the beach.

But the district council raised concerns about the scale of the proposed development, which initially included plans for a skatepark and a zip wire.

Parish councillors reduced the size of the scheme and later reported "overwhelming support" for the proposals.