A PLANNING application that divided Alresford residents has been approved following a heated Winchester City Council planning committee meeting.

Owners of the home and garden store Long Barn had submitted plans to expand the range of items sold by altering the conditions of its current planning permission.

The application received a huge response, with 189 locals writing in support, and 139 filing formal objections, and after it was approved one member of the public left his seat to address the closed meeting.

He said: “Once Alresford is an empty shell, I hope you will all be very happy with yourselves. None of you have taken any notice, and this is on your heads.”

Most objectors claim the expansion plans will drain business from Alresford Town Centre.

During the meeting, objector Simon Evans, who originally supported an application for Long Barn eight years ago, said: “I sat in here as the chairman of the Alresford Chamber of Commerce eight years ago, and was all-for the Long Barn.

“Today, I ask you to refuse this retrospective application. The applicant continues to copy and paste the key aspects of Alresford businesses, killing the market town.”

But the directors of Long Barn, Richard Norris and Jane Marsden (pictured) who were represented by their agent, Daniel Wiseman, believe their store is not impacting the trade in Alresford.

Mr Wiseman told the committee: “I’ve been the consultant for Long Barn for 11 years, and this is a destination that has become a very encouraging asset to the town of Alresford.

“It has created 54 jobs, and brings lots of customers from outside of the town – 68 per cent of customers travel from ten or more miles away. 58 per cent of these then head further into the town.”

Mr Wiseman also pointed out that the vacancy rate in Alresford High Street is currently at zero per cent.

Long Barn now has permission to sell a range of further items, including food, clothing and jewellery.