Redfields, one of the oldest garden centres in the country, wants to move to a new site off the A287 in Crondall after spending the last 27 years in Ewshot Lane, Church Crookham.

Hart Council threw out the plan last summer but bosses at the family-run firm — crowned the best in Britain two years ago by the Garden Centre Association — appealed against the decision.

The development saga was due to be thrashed out before a government planning inspector during a four-day inquiry starting on July 30.

The day before, counsel for Redfields heard his mother was terminally ill so the garden centre was granted a one-day postponement to allow another barrister to prepare for the case.

The inquiry opened as planned on July 30 to hear recommendations for an adjournment.

But it was then announced that the new barrister could not start the case for two days and Hart Council witnesses could not appear the following week.

Campaigners asked for a start to be made, but with both Redfields and Hart agreeing to a further delay, it was postponed until September 24.

The inquiry restarted on September 24 but was not completed in the four days so a further adjournment has been agreed.

But diary problems mean another long delay and now the inquiry will reopen on November 6.

Residents opposing the garden centre move have set up a group called BRAG — Bowenhurst Redfields Action Group — to fight their case.

"The depth of support for BRAG has been incredible," said chairman Robin Collett.

So far the group has received 170 cash contributions from residents and local organisations and has built up a fighting fund totalling £10,630.

Individuals have donated £5,810, the Crondall Society £3,000 and other local bodies £400. A fundraising dance netted £1,429.

"We do not yet know our total costs, which will now increase with the extra days, but we believe we should have enough to cover this extra," said Mr Collett.

BRAG has the backing of Crondall, Crookham Village and Dogmersfield parish councils, the Crookham Village Association, the Crondall Society, Fleet and Crookham Civic Society, the Hart and Rushmoor group of the Council for the Protection of Rural England and the Zebon Copse Residents Association.

"We are grateful for all the support we have received as important local views could not have been represented at the inquiry without it," said Mr Collett.

Campaigners warn the proposal would lead to a huge increase in traffic on rural roads and the A287, which they say many residents are scared to cross.

Residents also fear it will erode the important green gaps between rural villages, set a precedent for further building along the A287, lead to substantial noise and light pollution in the countryside and cause drainage problems leading to flooding.

Redfields says it looked at 13 sites before concluding the only realistic prospect for relocation was the appeal site at Bowling Alley Nursery.

Garden centre bosses point out that the new complex would be purpose-built, rather than the "hotchpotch" of buildings at the existing centre.

Energy-saving measures would be incorporated and wildlife areas would be created in a bid to turn the site into an educational asset.

The garden centre has warned that if the appeal fails the centre will close with the loss of 100 jobs.