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A HUGE garden centre is set to be built in the heart of the countryside despite fears about traffic and loss of green space.

Keydell Nurseries is set to move from Horndean to an empty farm off Whichers Gate Road, Rowlands Castle.

Planning officers at East Hampshire District Council have given their backing to the move ahead of a meeting tomorrow that will decide the fate of the proposals.

But the development has been opposed by Rowlands Castle Parish Council and the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

A total of 88 letters of objection have been received by the council, with eight letters in support.

The parish council is worried about higher volumes of traffic using the narrow country road.

A statement from the council in the planning report said: ‘The proposed access is considered a danger point due to the number of fatal accidents in the last 10 years on this section of road and the proximity to the bend in the road.’

A statement from CPRE Hampshire said: ‘The site is alongside the “strategic gap” between Rowlands Castle and Havant. It would contribute to the erosion of Rowlands Castle as a separate and colourful community.

‘The proposed development would be visible from the nearby boundary of the South Downs National Park.’

The parish council has also said the development could affect the viability of village shops, as well as garden centres at Stansted and Bartons Road.

Keydell Nurseries has been run by the Strange family for more than 100 years.

The move to Rowlands Castle was prompted by the nursery’s inclusion in East Hampshire’s local plan, which sets out potential sites for housing.

The Horndean site has been earmarked for 160 homes.

Bryan Jezeph, the planning consultant working for the Strange family, said: ‘They have been looking for years to find another site, but have found it very difficult.

‘Then this opportunity came up and they were obviously very keen.

‘They have been in Horndean for 20 years or more.

‘The buildings there are getting a bit tired.

‘We hope to have a completely brand new building, a modern building that’s easier for customers to utilise.’

To solve traffic and safety issues, planners propose to extend the 30mph limit on the road to include the access to the garden centre.

Mr Jezeph said the land at Horndean was poor quality and the 70 acres at Mays Coppice farm offered the opportunity to grow a tremendous range of plants.

If approved, the new garden centre would take 18 months to build. The Horndean nursery will remain open until the new site opens.

Mr Jezeph added: ‘We’re looking to expand on the number of jobs. It’s 39 at the moment.’

Councillors will take a final vote at tomorrow’s meeting at 6.30pm at Penns Place, Petersfield.