PLANS to "invigorate" a Hampshire town centre by turning a former bank into a cafe have been given the go-ahead.

Civic chiefs have approved an application to convert the old HSBC building in High Street, Fordingbridge, into a coffee shop with a one-bedroom flat in the loft.

The application had been opposed by Lesley Ryder, of nearby Shaftesbury Street.

In a letter to New Forest District Council she said: "I feel the town is not large enough to warrant another coffee shop.

"Fordingbridge needs more retail shops to entice more people into the town, which would benefit all the local businesses that are already here and keep the town alive."

But Fordingbridge Town Council supported the proposal, saying it would provide a welcome use for a commercial building that was standing empty.

A report produced by planning officers at the district council said the building's "classical appearance", including its tall windows, contributed to the local conservation area.

It added: "The proposal is to create a new use for the former bank, with a cafe on the ground floor and the creation of a residential unit within the roof space.

"The building has recently been the subject of wide-scale refurbishment, which has seen the creation of two dwellings to the rear and the change of use of the ground floor to a beauty salon, although the ground floor now appears to be empty.

"It is not considered that the impact of a cafe on the overall vitality of the town centre would be harmful.

"Conversely, it could enhance the retail environment of the High Street, particularly considering the vacant tenure of the premises."

The application was submitted by Mark and Adrienne Tollman, of Breamore.

In a statement supporting their proposal they said: "We propose to design the commercial interior to reflect a high-end style, similar to look and feel to Framptons in Ringwood - bearing in mind that this will be a daytime coffee shop as opposed to an evening wine bar venue.

"The existing cafes and tearooms in Fordingbridge do not offer the type of environment or ambiance that we are proposing.

"We hope the venue will contribute to an invigorated town centre and be supported by the local community."