A CONTROVERSIAL plan to build 70 homes on green belt land in the New Forest has been rejected for the second time in nine months.

District councillors have refused the latest application submitted by the Pinetops Nursery, which has outgrown its current site at Ramley Road, Pennington, near Lymington.

Nursery bosses want to sell the land for housing and move to a new site at nearby Efford.

However, an application to use the Ramley Road site for residential development was rejected last September by the council's planning and development control committee.

Now the same committee has refused a similar proposal, saying it amounted to "inappropriate development and non-essential housing" in the green belt.

Several members spoke in favour of the application.

They queried the site's green belt status, saying it was surrounded by houses and a school, and stressed that the removal of the nursery would cut the number of lorries in the area.

Lymington councillor Tom Russell said: "I would like to see Pinetops move from this very inappropriate site to Efford, which is much more suitable.

"A number of houses would be better for the community than the current use, which is a business activity in a residential area."

Pennington member Paul Hickman commented: "This project will benefit a particular business and the community as a whole. There are many people who see this as a desirable development."

However, other members spoke against the proposals put forward by nursery owner Derf Paton and his son Rory.

Brockenhurst councillor Maureen Holding said: "It would be wrong to allow a housing scheme of great density to be built on a green belt site. It would set an enormous precedent."

Speaking after the meeting, Derf Paton said: "We're naturally disappointed at the committee's decision and will have to think things through."