A DATE has been set for a public inquiry into proposals to increase the size of a Hampshire housing scheme that was approved in 2017.

Churchill Retirement Ltd was given permission for 36 flats in South Street, Hythe, but later applied for consent to build 43 apartments on the same site.

The new application was thrown out by New Forest District Council ten months ago, sparking an appeal by the applicant.

Last summer the Daily Echo revealed that the appeal would be heard at a public inquiry chaired by a government-appointed planning inspector.

Now the council has announced that the inquiry will be held at Lymington Town Hall and is due to start on January 22.

The housing scheme is part of a wider redevelopment project which also includes a £7 million Lidl supermarket which is being built on neighbouring land.

Churchill's initial application for 36 flats was approved by the council in May 2017.

Outlining its decision to reject the second proposal the authority said the flats' "poor design" would harm the character and appearance of the Hythe Conservation Area.

It also said the three-storey element of the proposed development would be "unduly dominant" in an area full of two-storey buildings.

One of the South Street residents who objected to the new scheme was Tracy Pittilo, whose letter to the council said: "The developers are trying to squeeze even more people into a small, overcrowded space which will be vastly over-developed."

Fellow protester John Elliott added: "The initial planning application was for a two-storey block, which was in keeping with nearly all the surrounding properties. The revised application to increase this to three storeys is not."

But Churchill has defended its application to increase the number of flats from 36 to 43.

Andrew Burgess, the company’s group land and planning director, said: "We believe our proposal is an acceptable, high quality design, and will help provide much needed housing for older people in Hythe, enabling them to downsize and in turn free up more family housing for younger people in the area.

"It will provide secure, self-contained apartments in landscaped grounds, as well as creating jobs and providing benefits to the local economy. We believe it will make a valuable contribution to the area.”

The site was formerly occupied by PC Building Supplies, which has moved to new premises on the Hardley Industrial Estate.