A new 40-bed care home for the elderly is planned at Stockbridge.

This comes six months after the town's Little Dean Nursing Home was forced to shut.

If approved, Brookvale Homes ambitious scheme - next door to the disused nursing home at Winton Hill - will be one of the biggest developments that the town has seen for several years

Stockbridge Parish Council chief, David Baseley, has hailed Brookvale's plans as vital to the town and its economy.

"The pharmacy was affected after the closure of Little Dean. A lot of the clients used it," he said.

Six months ago, angry owner, Amir Asaria, closed the home after borough planning bosses refused to allow it to expand.

This coupled with new rules relating to facilities at nursing homes meant Little Dean was no longer economically viable.

Brookvale's planned three-storey development is only an outline proposal at present, but the scheme has the backing of Hampshire's social services bosses.

They have told borough planners there is a "severe shortage" of nursing home beds in the Winchester and Andover area."

Social services officials say that up to 25 people living in the area are in need of a nursing home bed at any one time. Half of the former Little Dean residents were social services clients.

Planning officer, Magdalene Winter said: "It's more economical to build a new care home than renovate or extend an old one.

"Although the application is contrary to countryside policy there is a proven need. There is a severe shortage of this type of accommodation, with bed blocking in Winchester. We are recommending that half of the residents are social services placements."

County highway chiefs are urging borough planners to ensure the applicant makes a contribution to a traffic management scheme for the edge-of-town site.

On Tuesday, the southern area planning committee will debate the proposals. Mrs Winter is confident the committee will back her recommendation for approval.

Proposals to convert the old Little Dean Nursing Home into 13 two-bedroom apartments, submitted by Mr J Whitfield, will also be discussed.