PLANS for a new McDonald’s near Ringwood have been given the go ahead – and the scheme will create even more jobs than the 65 originally forecast.

National Park chiefs have finally approved an application to convert a former Little Chef complex on the A31 at Picket Post, near Ringwood, into a restaurant and drive-thru facility.

A previous proposal to redevelop the site was rejected earlier this year on environmental grounds.

But a revised scheme was backed by the New Forest National Park Authority (NPA) after McDonald’s pledged to screen the restaurant more effectively.

Due to open next spring, the outlet will employ up to 85 people – 20 more than the figure originally envisaged by the company.

The only member of the NPA’s planning and development control committee who voted against the A31 scheme was Cllr Chris Lagdon, who had concerns about litter.

He said: “We are the custodians of the National Park.

“McDonald’s have sorted out all the previous problems and submitted a very good application, but that will not stop litter spreading three or four miles in each direction.

“If you don’t believe me go down to the McDonald’s at Ower.

“More people see the New Forest from the A31 than anywhere else. What they’re going to see in future is piles and piles of litter.

“I will not vote for something that will see the Forest destroyed and defaced.”

But other members supported the proposal, saying the A31 already suffered from a serious litter problem that was not caused by McDonald’s.

Cllr Maureen Holding cited the promise of 85 jobs and added: “Employment is crucial to the New Forest.

“Not everyone likes McDonald’s but they do provide a service and they do provide jobs.”

Cllr David Harr-ison added: “I’m supporting this application, albeit with a heavy heart.

“You can find a McDonald’s in just about every town in the country.

“I’m passionate about the New Forest – it’s unique.

‘Green screen’ “I would much prefer to be discussing an application to open a restaurant that would source its food locally and give its customers a unique New Forest experience.

“I don’t think that is something McDonald’s will deliver.”

A report to members said McDonald’s aimed to reduce the impact of the scheme by installing a “green screen” covered with climbing plants and a fence that would prevent litter escaping into the surrounding countryside.

Representatives from the company said staff would carry out three litter picks a day.