CONTROVERSIAL plans to replace part of a beer garden with housing have been rejected for the second time.

Cordage 23 Ltd lodged an appeal after its application to build two homes behind the Wheatsheaf pub in Christchurch Road, New Milton, was turned down by the district council.

But government-appointed planning inspector Hollie Nicholls has upheld the council's decision.

She described the proposed new homes as "characterless" and said the replacement beer garden would be smaller than the existing facility.

The site firms part of the Old Milton Green Conservation Area and is near the Grade II-listed St Mary Magdalene Church.

Ms Nicholls said: "The introduction of the dwellings would result in a notable change within the street scene. Their scale would appear disproportionately large, particularly in relation to their overall bulk.

"Their design and appearance would be fairly bland, appearing as typical suburban estate homes."

Rejecting claims made by the applicant she added: "The proposal would not be of a high quality and could not be said to be an enhancement of the ‘visually unappealing’ car park."

Ms Nicholls also said the "characterless dwellings" would harm the character and appearance of the area.

As reported in the Daily Echo, the application to build a pair of three-bedroom houses behind the pub was rejected by the district council in June.

Objectors had included the vicar of St Mary's, the Rev Andrew Bailey, who said the loss of a "significant amount" of the beer garden would have a negative impact on the pub.

He also warned that the proposed development would damage views from the church and the graveyard.

Quoting comments made by protesters a report to councillors said: "Beer garden events will be severely impacted if the garden is reduced by two thirds, as is proposed. Footfall will be greatly reduced and could prove to be the death knell for our community pub."

The report described the proposed new homes as "very standard house types" that would fail to reflect their surroundings.

Pub tenants Julie and Steve Smither supported the proposal. They cited the cost of maintaining the existing car park and said housing would be a better use of the space.