RESIDENTS in New Milton are “split down the middle” over plans to build a KFC restaurant in the town – with two petitions going head-to-head.

New Forest District Council is considering plans for a 48-seat restaurant and takeaway to occupy the former NatWest bank building on Station Road, which has been empty for more than three years.

Resident Heidi Downs started a petition to stop the fried chicken franchise from coming to New Milton. She wrote: “There is already huge amounts of litter dropped around the skate park, children’s play area and the surrounding areas which comes from the local shops and subway. Imagine adding KFC wrappers, cups, boxes and bags to that.

“Add into the mix children leaving school gathering there and the busy roads through town and it’s a recipe for disaster.”

The petition has reached more than 165 signatures out of a target of 200.

Following this, a rival petition has been set up to counter Ms Downs’ efforts. The ‘Give KFC franchise permission for store in New Milton’ petition, set up by Mr Joe Greg, has also been signed by more than 100 people.

One resident, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Daily Echo: “People are really split down the middle about this. I for one think that it’s a good idea because that building has been empty for such a long time.

“While I understand some concern about litter and anti-social behaviour that could stem from a late-night takeaway, its only a KFC – it’s not an all-night bar or club.”

Bournemouth Echo: Former NatWest bank building on Station Road, New Milton. Picture: Google MapsFormer NatWest bank building on Station Road, New Milton. Picture: Google Maps

Conversely, resident Christine Cheesewright said: “I strongly object to the plans. We as residents would dearly like to have more family restaurants and evening venues enabling families to be able to enjoy going out to eat together. Takeaway food outlets can create mess and rubbish, more of which New Milton does not need.”

The planning committee held a meeting on Thursday August 12 to discuss the plans and form a recommendation back to New Forest District Council, who will make the final decision.

They said that the plans were “acceptable, subject to the Environmental Health officer’s recommended conditions including the need for a litter management plan”.