A HAMPSHIRE museum that boasts one of the finest collections of fully-restored motorcycles in the world has been refused permission to expand.

Civic chiefs have rejected an application to build a two-storey extension to an attraction opened by the legendary Sammy Miller in the 1990s.

Miller, who won more than 1,300 motorcycle trials during his career and was British trials champion 11 times, was awarded an MBE in 2009.

A proposal to upgrade the internationally-renowned museum in Bashley Cross Road, New Milton, was submitted to New Forest District Council earlier this year.

Managers said the proposed development was needed to house an ever-expanding number of exhibits and display them in more imaginative ways.

The complex was praised by the council's own economic development officer, Matt Callaghan.

Commenting on the application he said: "The museum is recognised as an important asset to the local visitor economy and particularly important to the New Milton area.

"It attracts visitors from some distance, many of whom spend additional money at surrounding businesses and facilities. It's important this contribution is recognised."

But the authority has rejected the application after criticising the size and the "poor design" of the planned extension.

A report by planning officers said the museum was on Green Belt land.

It added: "It is evident that since the former farm buildings were converted into a museum in the 1990s a number of substantial extensions have taken place.

"Further extensions will clearly result in a cumulative impact on the existing buildings and the openness of the Green Belt.

"In this case the proposed extension is too large and together with poor design would have a negative impact on the group of buildings, to the detriment of the rural character of the area."

The museum is run by the Sammy Miller Motorcycle Trust, which said it was "extremely disappointed" with the council's decision.

A spokesman said: "The Trust is accepted as one of the leading motorcycle museums in the world and a major attraction to the New Forest.

"People come from all over the world to combine a visit to the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu, and our complex in New Milton.

"Our application for an extension was to provide more display areas for technical, engineering, sectional engine displays and motorcycles, which are not only for our visitors to enjoy but for students studying engineering.

"We urgently need more library and archive storage and cataloguing facilities, which this extension would have provided us with."