PLANS to transform part of a tourist hot-spot in the New Forest have been given the go-ahead.

Civic chiefs have approved proposals to replace derelict outbuildings behind Shappen Stores at The Cross, Burley, with facilities including a cafe and a children's play area.

Businessman Nigel Blow owns the site and aims to turn it into a focal point.

The existing store will continue to trade while the proposed new facilities are expected to create around nine full-time and five part-time jobs.

Mr Blow's application said: “Proposals are being considered, namely a coffee shop or tea room that is dedicated to the products of the New Forest Marque (and) a flexible function space that can accommodate charitable and commercial events."

Burley is a picture postcard village that draws a huge number of visitors in the summer.

The application said the proposed development would "update" the site's contribution to the tourist industry that was critical to the economy of the New Forest.

Members of Burley Parish Council backed the plans, which also attracted 15 letters of support.

One person wrote: "What an absolutely fantastic idea - just what Burley needs. I fully support this application, as should everyone."

However the application sparked eight objections, with critics citing concerns over road safety, increased noise and the size of the proposed new buildings.

One of the protesters said: "The buildings behind Shappen Stores are non-designated heritage assets and highly visible in the centre of Burley. Their loss would cause harm to the Burley Conservation Area.

"They should be preserved rather than unnecessarily demolished and replaced with new-build."

A report to members of the New Forest National Park Authority said: "The proposal is considered acceptable and appropriate to the area.

“It would comply with the relevant policies of the Local Plan. The scale, design and use of appropriate building techniques and vernacular materials would ensure it would preserve and enhance the character and appearance of the conservation area.

“There would not be any adverse impact on parking or traffic in the area and the residential amenities of near neighbours would not be affected.”