CIVIC chiefs have approved a £4m plan to transform an "iconic" Hampshire hotel by adding an extra 38 bedrooms - an increase of 70%.

The four-star Balmer Lawn Hotel in Lyndhurst Road, Brockenhurst, will also gain new spa and leisure facilities and the function room's capacity will be doubled - to 240.

The scheme, which will create 22 jobs, has been given the go-ahead by the New Forest National Park Authority (NPA).

A report to members said: "The Balmer Lawn is an iconic New Forest hotel and one that makes an important contribution to the local and wider visitor economy.

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"The scheme has been sensitively designed and would not have any adverse impact on the amenities of adjoining residents or the wider area.

"Indeed, the scheme enjoys widespread public support.

"Substantial new planting is proposed that would further help the proposed development to assimilate into the landscape whilst the setting and outward appearance of the principal hotel building would be retained."

Chris and Alison Wilson have owned the business for more than 20 years.

In a statement they said the proposed development would enable the hotel to compete with other leading establishments in the Forest.

Welcoming the NPA's decision they added: "We couldn’t be more delighted, humbled and grateful for all the support and goodwill we’ve received.

"Obtaining planning permission has been quite daunting but, given that this is a large scheme for a village like Brockenhurst, it’s been a real community effort.

"We’ve had lots of supporting statements and not one objection - we couldn’t be more thrilled."

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Anthony Climpson, chief executive of Go New Forest (GNF), added: "“It’s wonderful news. Chris and Alison can now continue their huge and ongoing commitment to the long-term renaissance of one of our most important and prestigious hotels."

The hotel currently has only 54 bedrooms, which prevents it from staging a large number of functions that require 60-70 rooms.

As reported in the Daily Echo, GNF wrote to the National Park Authority earlier this year to support the application.

It said: "Balmer Lawn's owners have spent the past two decades working tirelessly to take the hotel from being a broken down example of everything that can go wrong in hospitality to a shining example of the very best in quality and service.

"However, the property suffers from many constraints to its capability to improve further."