PLANS for the biggest hotel in the New Forest have been given the go-ahead - despite claims it will “destroy” existing businesses.

Civic chiefs have approved a controversial application to build an 84-bedroom Premier Inn on the Forest Gate Business Park in Ringwood.

The £8.5 million hotel, which will create almost 30 jobs, is due to open towards the end of next year.

Objectors speaking at a meeting of the district council’s planning committee cited the potential impact of the proposed development on existing hotels in the Ringwood area.

Protesters included Anthony Climpson, chief executive of a newly-formed tourism organisation called Go New Forest Mr Climpson said the new building would create a “staggering surfeit” of hotel beds, destroying existing hospitality businesses.

He added: “This is a watershed moment for the New Forest tourism industry. Get it wrong and it will affect the economy for evermore.”

Several members of the committee claimed the four-storey hotel would be too tall and too dominant.

Cllr Michael Thierry, who represents Ringwood, said: “While I’m not opposed to a hotel I’m certainly opposed to the size of this particular building.”

In a message to the applicants he added: “Slice a bit off, reduce the number of bedrooms and you might arrive at a position where the hotel could be accommodated.”

Other objectors included Ringwood Town Council and New Forest Hotels, which said the complex would be the biggest facility of its type in the Forest.

But many of the councillors who spoke in the debate voiced support for the proposal.

Cllr David Harrison said: “I’m not going to join in the chorus of negativity. Let’s be positive - this is a fantastic application that will bring enormous economic benefits to the area.”

Cllr Steve Rippon-Swaine added: “This could be the biggest hotel in the Forest. Good job too.”

Representatives from the applicant, GP Commercial Investment Ltd, described the proposed development as “simple and elegant”.

The company’s planning application said the availability of hotel accommodation in Ringwood was “limited”.

The nearest facilities were the Travelodge at St Leonard’s, the Burley Manor Hotel at Burley and the Premier Inn at Ferndown.

The application, which sparked ten letters of objection, was approved by ten votes to two.