PLANS to increase the size of a Hampshire housing scheme which was approved two years ago have been given the go-ahead.

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

The new application was thrown out by New Forest District Council last year.

Civic chiefs said the flats’ “poor design” would harm the character and appearance of the Hythe Conservation Area, which includes several listed buildings.

They also claimed the three-storey part of the proposed development would be “unduly dominant” in an area full of two-storey buildings.

But Churchill lodged an appeal and a public inquiry was held at Lymington Town Hall in January.

Churchill was represented by Neil Cameron QC, who told the hearing: “It’s the applicant’s case that the development will not adversely affected the listed buildings.

“It will cause little substantial harm to the conservation area.”

But Charles Banner, representing the council, added: “It’s important to remember that the smaller scheme was accepted on balance - the report did not consider it a harm-free proposal.”

Now government-appointed planning inspector Harold Stephens has upheld the appeal and approved the application, saying the council had attached too much weight to the disadvantages of the proposal.

The site is next to Hythe’s new £7m Lidl store, which has created about 40 full and part-time jobs.