PLANS to build a multi-million-pound crematorium in the Hampshire countryside have been given the go-ahead.

Civic chiefs have approved an application to construct a chapel and 110 parking spaces on farmland near Stem Lane and Great Woar Copse in New Milton.

The Bristol-based Westerleigh Group aims to construct a 130-seat building that will hold about 1,200 services a year.

An outline application for a crematorium on the site was approved by New Forest District Council (NFDC) three years ago - despite sparking more than 500 objections.

Now a revised and more detailed scheme has been backed by the authority after prompting only ten protests and 14 letters of support.

A report to councillors said the crematorium would not have a significant adverse impact on air quality, the character and appearance of the area or nature conservation.

It added: "There is support for the proposal, which would be of benefit to the community and provide a limited number of job opportunities. These matters weigh in favour of the proposal."

Last year the town council's planning committee agreed to recommend NFDC to approve the application.

The chairman of New Milton Residents' Association, Alan Watson, said 92% of the 240 members who responded to a survey were in favour of the application.

Councillors also heard from funeral director Richard Shaw, who said the building would be surrounded by a large amount of green space.

Westerleigh’s senior development manager, Ed Aldridge, confirmed that a large number of trees would be planted at the start of construction work. He added that the crematorium would also boast a woodland memorial area, which would expand over time.

One of the other speakers said traffic generated by the scheme could result in more crashes at the Cat and Fiddle junction - a notorious accident blackspot.

But the committee chairman, Cllr Steve Clarke, said a crematorium was needed in the area.

“My wife died in 2013 and I had to go through the distress of travelling to Bournemouth and getting stuck in traffic – that shouldn’t happen to the people of New Milton," he said.

Some councillors criticised the design of the proposed development, with one claiming it looked like shipping containers bolted together.

But the committee voted unanimously to support the application.

The outline proposal was submitted by the newly-formed New Forest Crematorium Company in 2016, when the cost was thought to be "at least" £2m. The fledgling firm later handed the scheme over to Westerleigh, which describes itself as the UK's second largest crematorium operator.

Westerleigh amended the original design, removing the conical roof.