PEOPLE living in the New Forest have been given another week to comment on plans to transform the area's refuse collection system.

A public consultation on the proposals, which could result in the introduction of wheelie bins, has been extended until next Sunday.

A recent meeting of the district council was told that only 3% of residents had responded to the consultation.

Two members of the ruling Tory group - Cllr Maureen Holding and Cllr Alexis McEvoy – were among members who criticised the authority over its handling of the issue.

Cllr McEvoy said the wording of the consultation made it appear as if “all roads lead to wheelie bins”.

Cllr Holding said the council had previously promised it would never introduce wheelie bins and could suffer a backlash if it “reneged” on the pledge.

Cllr Jack Davies, a member of the Liberal Democrat opposition group, said the consultation seemed to be a “box-ticking exercise”.

If the scheme goes ahead more than 90% of homes will see plastic refuse sacks replaced by wheelie bins.

General rubbish and items capable of being recycled will be collected on alternate weeks.The council is also planning to introduce a separate food waste collection service to comply with proposed new laws.

The decision to extend the consultation period has been announced by Cllr Alison Hoare, cabinet member for environment.

She said: "I have been pleased to see a great deal of useful discussion in our public engagement around the proposals put forward in our draft waste strategy.

"More than 3,000 people have commented online and we are still receiving many comments through our website and the post.

"It is clear that local people care for their environment and would like to minimise our waste.

"We are keen to hear from local people how our proposals will work for them so that we can develop a service that works best for the local area, and for our environment.

"I am extending the deadline for comments to give more people an opportunity to read the information and tell us their views.”