PLANNING officers have been accused of having “double standards” after recommending a scheme neighbours say would normally be frowned on.

A plan to demolish the former New Forest District Council (NFDC) offices in Christchurch Road, Ringwood and build 12 flats and three two-storey houses goes against conservation and distinctiveness goals, and the council’s usual stance on protecting mature trees and open space, say residents.

They also say the council has not insisted on the usual number of parking spaces, which they fear will lead to the new residents attempting to “trespass” on their land to park in Woodstock Lane.

Woodstock Lane resident Tim Ward said: “Planning officers use certain reasons every week to turn down applications yet those same reasons apply here and it was approved.

“In this instance they’re just being swept aside and it smacks of double standards.

“The big bugbear is the three houses at the back, which cramp the site and prevent adequate parking and outside amenity for the flat dwellers.

“The minimum parking requirement should be about 24 and they’ve only provided 16.

“Our fear is they’ll all try to park on adjacent streets, of which the nearest is Woodstock Lane. That would amount to trespass.

“It’s going to be chaotic around here as people try to park.”

The plan was approved at the second attempt, after developers CurrentAsset Ltd removed a supermarket on the ground floor.

The firm wanted to build a convenience store, topped by eight flats, with three houses at the rear.

But the plans sparked objections from Ringwood Fire Service, Ringwood Town Council, and the Ringwood Society.

Neighbours said the site was unsuitable for retail and that the development would change the character of a street which has a history dating back to mediaeval times.

It is also in a conservation area.

Firefighters feared traffic from the shop could make it difficult for them to get in and out of the neighbouring station.

Nevertheless, officers at NFDC recommended approval, but councillors went against them, saying traffic could block the entrance and exit to the fire station, delaying crews in an emergency.

Now planners have approved the scheme after CurrentAsset removed the shop element and added more flats.

The second plans also removed a second floor window that would have overlooked neighbours in Christchurch Road, and removed an access into Woodstock Lane.

Neighbours in Woodstock Lane are still unhappy, saying three houses fronting onto their historic road, alongside bungalows, is overpowering.

Despite the access being removed they say new residents will still try to park in their spaces, which they own as part of their freeholds, and which are already oversubscribed.

The council’s tree officer also objected to the loss of two pines and three pear trees on Christchurch Road and a sycamore at the back of the site.

Three of the homes will be social rented – half of the 40 per cent usually required.

Mr Ward said: “We do feel that planning officers have recommended a scheme that normally they would not approve.”

Chris Elliott, head of planning, said: “Despite the council’s interest in selling the site, the planning application was subject to the same formal process and policies as all other applications.

“We believe this development will be a significant improvement for this site.”