CONTROVERSIAL plans to transform a prime Hampshire waterfront site have been delayed.

Council chiefs are withholding consent to build 168 homes, a restaurant and a riverside walk on the former Webbs chicken factory site in Lymington because of the failure to complete a vital legal agreement.

Members of the district council’s planning committee backed proposals to redevelop the seven-acre site overlooking the Lymington River last month.

Planning officers were authorised to approve the application, subject to the council and the applicant, Redrow Homes, agreeing a long list of conditions.

However, they were also handed the power to reject the scheme if the document was not signed within 40 days.

Chris Elliott, the council’s head of planning and transport, said: “We haven’t been able to complete the agreement because it’s proved necessary to involve extra parties.

I can’t grant permission but I’m not going to reject the application because negotiations are still ongoing.”

Redrow had hoped to start construction work this month but the scheme is now unlikely to be approved until mid April at the earliest.

A council spokesman said: “As the deadline set by the planning committee has passed, the matter will be referred back to them in due course.”

The delay has been caused by the need to involve Hampshire County Council.

A Redrow spokesman said the authority was being asked to adopt a proposed footbridge over a neighbouring railway line, thus ensuring it was publicly owned and maintained.

He added: “It’s anticipated that once the agreement has been signed by Hampshire County Council, the planning consent can be released.”

Redrow’s application has split the town. The Lymington Society conservation group has praised the scheme but the council has received 53 letters of objection.