DEVELOPERS are debating their next move after civic chiefs rejected plans for a "prison-like" block of flats in a Hampshire village.

McCarthy and Stone could decide to lodge an appeal after being refused permission to replace the former police station at Jones Lane, Hythe, with 35 retirement apartments.

The scheme sparked 76 letters of objection and was unanimously rejected by members of the district council's planning committee earlier this month.

Cllr Allan Glass said: "The old police station is ugly and in my opinion the proposed development looks like a really ugly prison."

Planning agent Carla Fulgoni, representing McCarthy and Stone, described the proposed new building as "modern and distinctive", adding: "Design is subjective and this is next to Hythe marina. A large building is suitable for the site."

But Cllr Ann Sevier said: "It looks rather like an industrial unit, not somewhere you would want to go and live."

The multi-million-pound scheme also came under fire from one of the objectors, Martin Cox, who told the committee: "This development would sit very nicely in a town - but does not sit nicely in the charming village of Hythe."

McCarthy and Stone could either lodge an appeal or submit a revised scheme in the hope of overcoming the objections.

A company spokesman said: “Given our extensive consultation with planning officers, which resulted in a number of changes to the design of our scheme, we are disappointed with the decision to refuse the application.

"We are committed to regenerating this site with much-needed specialist retirement accommodation and will now decide the best way to take our proposals forward.”

Some of the objectors claimed that Hythe was already "inundated" with retirement apartments.

But the application said the scheme was an appropriate use for an under-utilised site which had been blighted by vandalism and anti-social behaviour since the police station closed last year.

The application added that by 2033 34 per cent of the district's population would be aged over 65.

Speaking earlier this year Shane Paull, McCarthy & Stone's regional managing director, said: "Our proposals will help meet a growing need for specialist accommodation for older people.

"We plan to deliver a sensitive residential development in a highly sustainable location.

"We have sought to respect the characteristics of the neighbouring Hythe Conservation Area.

"The proposed building is set back from Jones Lane and we are retaining all the existing trees to create an attractive setting for the development."