SOUTHAMPTON Football Club has been given permission to build a new state-of-the-art gym for First Team players at its Marchwood training ground.

Saints are planning to replace an existing facility at the Markus Liebherr Pavilion, the main building at the 42-acre Staplewood Campus at Long Lane.

The club says it needs a bigger gym similar to those already being used by its Premier League rivals.

A planning statement that formed part of its application to New Forest District Council described the proposed development as "essential" to the club's hopes.

It added: "The application proposes a new single-storey building located in the car parking area to the north west of the pavilion.

"The proposed gym provides the required net internal area of 450sqm, plus additional ancillary facilities which will be directly linked to the First Team changing facilities at the pavilion.

"The existing training ground and facilities have been established at Staplewood for nearly 30 years.

"A new gym is an essential facility for the club to train its First Team and Academy Squad. The gym is clearly an appropriate facility for sport, given the scale and importance of Southampton Football Club to the local economy."

Staplewood is next to the built-up part of Marchwood but the application said the proposed new building would be almost entirely screened from view.

Referring to nearby homes it added: "A timber fence with hedging runs along Staplewood Lane, screening the location of the proposed development.

"In addition the building will not be visible from the south east along Long Lane as it is shielded from view by the existing building. There would be very little, if any, impact on the amenity of those occupiers. The use of the site will not intensify as a result of the proposal."

A design and access statement that also formed part of the application said the existing gym was only 150sqm.

"In order to provide a new state-of-the-art gym, in line with other Premier League facilities, a new gym is proposed with an associated store and ancillary facilities," it said.

A council report said the proposed development represented a "relatively modest" increase in the facilities.

It added: "The extension is considered to be of a suitable scale, design and external materials and would not adversely affect the character of the surrounding area."