A BID to ease the parking shortage at a Hampshire hospice has been approved - defying planning policies that aim to protect the Green Belt.

A proposal submitted by Oakhaven Hospice in Lymington was given the go-ahead after civic chiefs heard that extra spaces would make the existing car park safer and more efficient.

Highlighting the hospice's importance to the local community, council officers said schemes considered harmful to the Green Belt could be supported "in very special circumstances".

Members of the district planning committee were told that new facilities at Oakhaven had resulted in more traffic using the parking area.

A report to councillors said the proposed alterations would provide an improved parking facility for ambulances and volunteer drivers collecting patients.

It added: "The application states that the existing parking provision is inadequate for the current occupancy of the site as well as failing to adequately cater for visitors during fundraising events.

"It is indicated that the additional parking will provide improved accessibility and capacity for staff, residents and visitors.

"There is felt to be clear justification for a modest increase in the site's parking capacity.

"It would not cause material harm to the rural character and appearance of the area and would have only limited impact on the Green Belt."

The report said the new-look car park would meet Oakhaven's needs, enabling it to operate in a safer and more efficient manner.

It added: "Taking all these factors into account there are considered to be very special circumstances to permit what must be deemed inappropriate development in the Green Belt."

The committee approved the application, which will provide at least four extra spaces.

Speaking after the meeting Oakhaven's chief executive, Andrew Ryde, said: "We are delighted with the council's decision. Parking here has been a challenge for a long time."

Opened in 1992 the hospice has undergone a multi-million-pound expansion scheme in the past few years.

One of the new facilities - a £650,000 centre that enables Oakhaven to support seriously ill patients at an earlier stage - was opened by actress Susan Hampshire in 2014.

The four-acre hospice takes patients from the age of 16 and has about 180 on its books at any one time.