FEARS have been raised that Ringwood’s heritage is at risk from a planning application to redevelop a conservation area and historic buildings at Star Lane.

Furlong Shopping Centre Ltd has submitted the proposal to extend, add new shop fronts and make alterations to buildings numbers 5, 7, 9 and 11.

Sana Stephens, owner of independent shop Timber, told the Journal if the plans are approved she could be forced out because a rent increase and associated costs will be too high.

Mrs Stephens, who opened Timber at 5, Star Lane 13 years ago, said: “The Furlong told us that they were thinking of these changes last summer and wanted to negotiate a deal with us.

“We were near to an agreement but they were asking for a rent that we would find very difficult to pay.

“If the Furlong has had these plans in progress then why haven’t they sought public consultation before submitting their application?

“The Furlong design is bold and unfitting and completely changes the visual impact and historic vernacular of the lane.”

Some 27 shoppers and residents have already lodged their objections with New Forest District Council.

Alderholt resident Julie Slater said: “I think it is very wrong to make changes to the Timber shop and I object to it being made larger and rents doubled.

“I believe it is very important to support our independent shops. We love shopping at Timber because of its unique gifts and products and would be very sad if it went.”

Perri Yates of Salisbury said: “All the independent businesses are getting wiped out by corporate companies in Ringwood. No one wants these bigger out of town shops.

“The magic that Ringwood once held is being taken from us. Timber is a wonderful shop, promoting Fairtrade and organic products, loved by children and adults.”

She added: “I speak for many when I say it is completely unfair to take this wonderful shop away from us.”

Fordingbridge resident Alison Crocker said: “This shop does not need extending or its front altered. The rent/rate increase will make it impossible for it to stay trading so you’ll have yet another empty shop in an already dying market town.”

A spokesman for the Furlong’s owners Development Securities PLC, said: “We have made an application for a ground floor extension of 5-11 Star Lane, which will increase the amount of retail space in this period building.

“Our aim is to put the property back into use by creating shop units that are better suited to the needs of retailers and to provide an exciting new retail destination for Ringwood.

“These proposals are part of our overall strategy to create a varied and diverse retail offer in Ringwood, building on the success of Waitrose and The Furlong. Our designs for the scheme seek to retain the heritage of the site while offering flexibility for retailers and an attractive new retail and environment for the local community.”