NFDC planner David Groom said: "We'd be surprised if this appeal was granted by the inspector because it goes so against government guidelines on greenbelt land. The fear is that the nature of the beast is changing."
Devon-based garden centre company and grower Otter wants to increase floor space by 2,144sq m on a section of the former site of HRI Efford in Lymington, Hampshire, which Otter bought in 2005 to run as plant centre. Lymington-based Pinetops Nursery wants to build a new nursery on another area of the site.
New Forest District Council initially refused Otter planning permission, and the company went to appeal last week for permission for the demolition of one glasshouse, two new buildings, canopy structures, hard-surfaced car parking and a coffee shop.
The company says full-time employment will double to 56.
New Forest District Council appeals officer Nicholas Straw said: "It is clear from the details of the products that the appellant wishes to sell, and from the wording of the conditions that the appellant is suggesting be imposed, that permission is sought to sell products which may be related to the recreational pursuit of gardening and outdoor living, but are not products that are produced on the site, ie plants."
Otter's Malcolm White and William Casely did not comment.
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