CIVIC chiefs are backing the latest proposal to build a multi-million-pound crematorium on green belt in the New Forest.

The Bristol-based Westerleigh Group has applied for planning permission to construct a single-chapel facility on farmland off Stem Lane in New Milton.

Westerleigh has drawn up proposals for a 130-seat building which will hold about 1,200 services a year.

An outline application for a crematorium on the same site was approved by New Forest District Council (NFDC) three years ago - despite sparking more than 500 objections. Now a more detailed scheme has been submitted to the authority.

New Milton Town Council's planning committee agreed to recommend NFDC to approve the proposals.

Speakers at the meeting included Linda Lee, a chaplain at Lymington New Forest Hospital, who said the proposed new crematorium would benefit mourners with mobility issues.

The chairman of New Milton Residents' Association, Alan Watson, said 92% of the 240 members who responded to a survey were in favour of the application.

Councillors also heard from funeral director Richard Shaw, who said the building would be surrounded by a large amount of green space.

Westerleigh’s senior development manager, Ed Aldridge, confirmed that a large number of trees would be planted at the start of construction work. He added that the crematorium would also boast a woodland memorial area, which would expand over time.

One of the other speakers said traffic generated by the scheme could result in more crashes at the Cat and Fiddle junction - a notorious accident blackspot.

But the committee chairman, Cllr Steve Clarke, said a crematorium was needed in the area.

“My wife died in 2013 and I had to go through the distress of travelling to Bournemouth and getting stuck in traffic – that shouldn’t happen to the people of New Milton," he said.

Some councillors criticised the design of the proposed development, with one claiming it looked like shipping containers bolted together.

But the committee voted unanimously to support the application, which is due to be decided by NFDC in the next few weeks.

The outline proposal was submitted by the newly-formed New Forest Crematorium Company in 2016, when the cost was thought to be "at least" £2m. The fledgling firm later handed the scheme over to Westerleigh, which describes itself as the UK's second largest crematorium operator.

Westerleigh has amended the original design, removing the conical roof.