A HAMPSHIRE tourist magnet has cancelled hundreds of holidays after gaining consent for a £10 million revamp.

Sandy Balls has been given planning permission to build 108 holiday lodges on land currently used by visiting campers, caravanners and motor home owners.

Now the award-winning holiday village near Godshill in the New Forest is contacting 250 families across the south to rescind their bookings.

In a statement Sandy Balls said it hoped those affected would return to the site in the future and “stay in one of our stunning lodges”.

But the five-star facility is facing an angry backlash from many of its customers, some of whom have been going there for several years.

Writing on social media Zoe Britton said: “Most of us campers can’t afford to stay in your luxurious lodges.”

Jill Hibbs added: “We have visited Sandy Balls since we first started camping. Staying in a lodge will never equal the experience of camping, especially for our children.”

In a statement Sandy Balls cited growing demand for lodges, the ever-increasing size of tents, caravans and motor homes, and strict planning policies which prevented it from increasing the size of the camping facility.

“In the end we were left with little option but to convert the area,” it said.

Plans to build more than holiday lodges on the site were approved by the New Forest National Park Authority (NPA) after sparking only five objections.

Steve Avery, the NPA’s executive director of strategy and planning, told the Daily Echo: “Our planning policies support the redevelopment of existing holiday parks, providing there is no additional increase in units.

“Our policies don’t seek a reduction in footfall.

“The Sandy Balls application wasn’t to increase units, it was to upgrade the facilities and replace the touring pitches with lodges, reducing the number of pitches.

“It was a purely commercial decision and not driven by our policies.”

Go New Forest, the area’s tourism organisation, said the Sandy Balls management team had worked hard with Camping in the Forest and Shorefield Holidays to find alternative stays and locations for those affected.

Sandy Balls was owned by the Westlake family for many years but was bought by Away Resorts, run by Carl Castledine, about 20 months ago.

A Sandy Balls spokeswoman said all families affected by the holiday cancellations would be receiving a full refund within the next few days.