PLANS to redevelop a former RAF base in Bransgore countryside have been approved.

New Forest district councillors have approved an application to demolish most of the buildings at the former RAF Sopley, now Merryfield Park, and replace them with 80 homes - half of which will be affordable.

The district council has previously had to take enforcement action against businesses operating illegally on the 28-acre site in Derritt Lane, Bransgore.

But others have been granted lawful development certificates and 11 of the 91 huts will be retained for employment use.

Now known as Merryfield Park, the former RAF camp occupies green belt land next door to part of the New Forest National Park.

A report to district councillors said the application to transform the site had resulted in nearly 40 letters of support.

Quoting some of the comments made in the letters the report said: “The site has many derelict and unattractive buildings and its redevelopment for housing and business uses would be a considerable improvement. The site is an eyesore.”

Senior council officers hit back at claims made by their opposite numbers at the National Park Authority (NPA), which had objected to the application.

The head of development control, Chris Elliott, said: “I'll be blunt - the NPA has assessed this incorrectly.

“The scheme will have less impact than the existing development.

“It's relatively easy to make an objection without looking at the detail. This gives you a better looking development and also resolves the problems we've had with the site.”

Other supporters of the application included Cllr Pat Wyeth, who is also chairman of the NPA's planning committee.

She said: “The applicants are providing affordable homes for local people and as much green space as they possibly can.”

RAF Sopley was used to house some of the Vietnamese boat people after they arrived in the UK in the late 1970s.

The report to councillors stated: “It has a history but the majority of the buildings are in a really poor state of repair and have a utilitarian appearance.”

Cllr Maureen Holding said: “What's proposed is probably better than what's there at the moment but it's still green belt.”

But Cllr Tony Swain added: “The site has been a bit of an eyesore for the past 20 years and I'm delighted that we're sorting it out.”