A RELIGIOUS group in the New Forest has been given permission to replace their current place of worship which is "inefficient" and does not meet the requirements of all the congregation.

The current Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses in Holbury was built in the 1920s as a utility building for pumping town gas to residents' properties.

After being bought by the council and used as a community venue, the Jehovah's Witnesses purchased the site in 2009 and it has served as a place of worship ever since.

However, the Kingdom Hall Trust is now aiming to build a new facility and their plans have been approved by New Forest District Council's planning officers.

Discussing the need for the new meeting hall, a design and access statement submitted on behalf of the applicants said: "The existing hall is inefficient in terms of energy use and does not adequately meet the requirements of those with special needs in terms of access and facilities, specifically, those with disabilities, and those with young children or babies.

"There is also evidence of movement causing cracks in the masonry.

"To bring the existing building up to current standards in terms of accessibility, sustainability, energy use, the provision of level floors throughout etc. would be prohibitively expensive and not sustainable, hence the proposal for a replacement building that adequately meets the needs of all users."

The proposed meeting hall will provide an increase in floor space and site nearer to the street in Holbury Drove to "improve the connection to the street".

No objections were raised against the plans and they were approved by council officers.

A report by case officer Jo Chambers said: "The proposal will facilitate the construction of a modern, more energy efficient

building of an appropriate design and layout that is compatible with its surroundings."