PLANS to replace an ageing Hampshire hospital with a new building fit for the 21st century have been approved.

Health chiefs have been given the go-ahead to bulldoze Hythe and Dibden War Memorial Hospital and replace it with a state-of-the-art complex.

The multi-million-pound proposal, which also includes 21 homes, has been given the nod by New Forest District Council.

Housed in a building which dates from the 1890s, the existing hospital is next door to a medical centre that opened in the 1960s.

Both facilities will be demolished - but the medical centre will continue to provide health services until the new hospital is up and running.

Referring to plans to build housing on part of the site a council report says: "The loss of community buildings to residential development would be acceptable in this instance.

"The new hospital would result in an improved and more efficient local health service within a purpose-built building."

The report says the older part of the hospital has lost much of its former significance as a result of alterations carried out over the years.

It adds: "The continued retention of this building as a local heritage asset would not be justified.

"Its loss would not be materially harmful, particularly when balanced against the significant and overriding benefits of providing a new hospital building.

"Although the older part of the existing building is not of such architectural or historical significance as to justify it being retained, it is important to recognise that the building has the status of a war memorial.

"The application acknowledges this and puts forward possible proposals to ensure the new building takes up this role."

Dr Sarah Schofield, chairman of West Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “I am delighted that planning permission has been granted for the construction of a new hospital at Hythe.

"We have been working with partners in NHS Property Services, NHS England and local architect ArchitecturePLB to design a new hospital for the residents of Hythe and surrounding area and this means we can now take the development forward to the next stage.”

A CCG spokesman said the services provided by the new hospital would be "broadly similar" to those offered by the existing facility.

More details about the scheme, including the cost and the hospital's opening date, are expected to be released in the next few days.