PLANS to build homes on green belt land in the New Forest have been approved after a 24-year debate about the site's future.

RPS Group has been given permission to transform a derelict coal yard at Vicarage Lane, Hordle, by building a mixture of detached and semi-detached homes.

A report produced by New Forest District Council says the benefits of the scheme outweigh the "very limited" harm that would be caused to the green belt.

The coal yard has been the subject of five previous applications over the past three decades.

Residential development was refused in 1996. An application for 12 homes was withdrawn at the start of 2011 and a proposal for 22 business units was rejected later that year.

An application for 14 business units was refused in 2012. A similar scheme was approved two years later but was never built.

New Forest Post:

Now plans for a cul-de-sac ten homes have been given the nod.

The council report says the provision will create construction jobs as well as enhancing the sustainability of Hordle as a community and service hub. Hardstanding will be removed and a large part of the site will be given over to gardens and soft landscaping.

"Very special circumstances exist to warrant green belt development in this instance," says the report.

"This is based on the considerations weighing in favour of the development, including assisting with diminishing the district's shortfall in housing as well as the environmental, economic and social benefits that would be delivered by the scheme, which outweigh the very limited harm to the openness of the green belt."

The planning application described the site as "derelict and unsightly".

It said various structures were in a poor state of repair, which had a detrimental impact on the landscape. Their removal would result in a "significant benefit" to the appearance of the site.

The application added: "Planning permission has been granted for business units and whilst these were considered acceptable the units were not viable.

"No other commercial uses are known to be viable, other than a return to use as a coal yard."