COUNCILLORS have given the green light to plans to build 40 retirement homes on a Romsey garden centre.

McCarthy and Stone Retirement Lifestyles Ltd are behind the sheltered housing scheme at the Hillier Garden Centre off Botley Road.

Hillier have previously claimed the site is no longer viable due to a decline in trade.

The scheme includes 17 one-bedroom and 23 two-bedroom apartments, together with a laundry, manager’s office and a resident’s lounge.

The site will also have a Co-op convenience store, which they say will create 25 jobs on its own.

Planning restrictions, app-roved by Test Valley’s southern area committee on Tuesday, will limit the proposed shop opening hours to 7am to 8pm. A total of 34 parking spaces will be provided for residents and visitors to the sheltered accommodation plus 14 spaces for shop staff and customers.

Borough planners received 11 letters objecting to the development – particularly the convenience store element of the scheme.

But there were also objectors questioning the need for more retirement homes in Romsey.

The council received 12 letters supporting the proposals from those who claimed there was a “great need” for assisted living accommodation.

Speaking after the debate, Romsey’s mayor, Ian Richards, who has campaigned for more homes for young people in the town, said: “I couldn’t see any planning reasons to object to the application, but I am concerned about the number of retirement homes planned for the area.”

Tadburn ward member, Mark Cooper, said that councillors had managed to achieve benefits for people living near the proposed development.

These include more landscaping than originally proposed on the eastern side of the site to prevent the new flats overlooking nearby Nursery Gardens and soundproofing of the refrigeration unit at the new Co-op.

However, he told the Advertiser: “The most significant change that was achieved was to the street view (northern elevation) of the building. White and red panels that were proposed across the frontage will be replaced with red brick which will weather better.”

Mr Cooper pointed out that these 40 flats would also count towards the borough’s housing allocations in the Local Plan.