DEVELOPERS have won a long-running battle to convert a 60-bed hotel in a Hampshire village into retirement apartments.

PegasusLife lodged an appeal after the New Forest National Park Authority (NPA) rejected its latest application to transform the former Watersplash Hotel in Brockenhurst.

Now the NPA’s decision has been quashed by a government-appointed planning inspector who cited the large number of pensioners living in the village.

It comes just weeks after the NPA rejected an application by the same company to bulldoze the old Lyndhurst Park Hotel and replace it with 74 flats and 12 holiday lets.

The Brockenhurst scheme was rejected in October last year.

PegasusLife sought consent to provide 24 high-quality retirement apartments by converting the hotel and building villas and cottages in the grounds.

The application aimed to overcome objections to a previous plan that was turned down in 2015, but NPA members also criticised the revised scheme, saying it would dominate the site.

They described the proposed development as “fundamentally awkward” and claimed it would fail to blend in with the Victorian hotel.

But planning inspector Stephen Hawkins has approved the scheme, saying it preserve the character and appearance of the local conservation area as well as meeting a local need.

Mr Hawkins stressed that the number of older people living in the New Forest was higher than the national average.

He added: “I’m given to understand that the percentage of older people in Brockenhurst is even higher and is forecast to increase significantly over the next 20 years.

“The number of older people having difficulty with domestic tasks or personal care is also predicted to rise.

“Detailed evidence submitted on behalf of the applicant suggested that the proposed development would meet the current and future needs of an increasing number of older people who live in the village, as opposed to having to move away to find specialist accommodation.”

Campaigners are still waiting to learn if PegasusLife will appeal against the NPA’s decision to reject the company’s proposal to demolish the Lyndhurst Park Hotel.

The scheme was thrown out earlier this year after sparking more than 500 objections.