CONTROVERSIAL retrospective plans to use part of a green belt garden centre site for a car sales business have been refused by councillors.

Planning consultants representing applicant, known only as Mr Adams, said the site would only be for storage of cars and have less of an impact than its previous use.

But people living nearby to The Oaks in Merley had warned that the scheme was part of “increasing industrialisation” of the site.

The application was considered by members of the BCP Council planning committee on Thursday, a month after it refused plans for a car wash at the garden centre.

Cars have already been kept on the site, with the application seeking retrospective permission to allow it to continue.

In a letter supporting the scheme, Ken Parke of Ken Parke Planning said the site would be used more as a place for storage of cars being sold online, rather than a traditional showroom.

“The current use of the land is unrestricted retail and the site has also been used as ancillary car parking,” he said.

“Car sales is similar to that in visual terms and, as a consequence, does not result in any greater impact upon the openness of the green belt.

“Storage of vehicles in relation to a car sales operation has less impact than unrestricted open storage for retail purposes.”

But the application attracted dozens of letters of objection from people living nearby, raising concerns about the visual impact the business could have.

Their position was supported by committee members who unanimously agreed to reject the scheme, in line with a recommendation from council planning officers.

Cllr Tony Trent said the use of the land for the storage of cars was “totally inappropriate”.

“Enforcement action should have been taken ages ago – it’s undermining the green belt in that area,” he said.

“If we allow this, in the end someone is going to say ‘we can build this out-of-town superstore’ and this is opening the door to that.”

Cllr Ann Stribley called on council officers to ensure that the cars and hard-standing laid down on the site be cleared “as soon as possible”.