CONTROVERSIAL plans to replace a former police station with 32 retirement apartments could be approved this week - despite almost 80 objections to the scheme.

Members of New Forest District Council are being urged to support a proposal submitted by Churchill Retirement Living, which wants to redevelop a site at Southampton Road, Lymington.

Critics say Lymington needs affordable housing for young couples - not more flats for older residents.

Lymington and Pennington Town Council is urging NFDC to reject the scheme, claiming it is out of character and amounts to overdevelopment.

In a letter to the authority it says: "There are already in excess of 60 retirement properties for sale in the town centre, and another 44 will come on to the market when the recently approved Stanford Hill development is completed."

The application has sparked 76 letters of objection and none of support.

But district council officers are recommending members of the planning committee to approve the proposal at a meeting on Wednesday.

Their report refers to the Stanford Hill scheme but says there is still a "pressing need" for specialist housing for older people in the area.

It adds: "The proposed development is considered acceptable in principle in that it would provide 32 new units of accommodation in a sustainable town centre location, and would make an

appropriate (financial) contribution towards the provision of affordable housing in the area.

"The proposal is considered acceptable on balance in terms of its scale, mass and

appearance and its impact on the character of the area."

As reported in the Daily Echo, a protest petition signed by more than 1,400 people was presented at a recent meeting of the town council.

Cllr Andy Ash-Vie, chairman of the planning committee, said he had never seen a proposal spark so much opposition.

But Churchill has defended the scheme. Gary Day, the company's land, design & planning director, said: “The number of Lymington residents aged 75 and over is projected to increase by 65% by 2030.

“Lymington and the local area already has the fourth highest percentage of over-65s in the country.

“We need to do much more to meet the future needs of our older generation and recognise the many benefits of retirement housing, rather than adopting a negative and frankly ageist attitude towards new development of this kind.”

Mr Day said the scheme would boost the local economy by £1.3m as its central location would encourage residents to shop locally.