PLANS for a new community hall in Southwood have been given the go-ahead despite residents' fears it will encourage teenagers and vandals to loiter near their homes.

Residents in Griffin Close back on to the site in Links Way, where the 334 square metre hall will go.

Residents say the current hall, which is further back from their close, has become a haven for youths hanging about and vandalism.

Speaking at a meeting of Rushmoor Council's development control committee, a spokesman for the residents said they expected more noise and disturbance.

He told councillors: "You can hear music and arguing coming from outside the current one so it's going to move this trouble closer and it's going to be noisier.

"When there's a disco we can hear the music and very often kids arguing outside. Now this trouble will be closer to us."

He also said children would be forced to play in the road because a green space would be replaced by a 15-space car park.

"It's wrong to replace this with a new building when there's a lot of children who play there in their parents' view, which nowadays is very important," he added.

Residents are also angry the council wants to build another hall when they say the current hall is not maintained properly.

The spokesman said: "It has been allowed to deteriorate into disrepair and is an eyesore, but at least our view is covered by the trees."

Cllr Neville Dewey said he sympathised with the residents' concerns but the new hall would bring benefits.

He added: "There is a problem with vandalism and large congregations of young people with nothing to do.

"If this facility could be used it could improve things.

"The new community centre on London Road has been very successful. I am sure all the concern there has proved to be wrong."

Rushmoor Council maintains the new hall is necessary because community space will be lost under plans to refurbish the current hall.

At the meeting, plans to alter the building to establish a nursery were also approved. A National Health Service GP surgery will remain.

Development control manager Daryl Phillips said the applicant owned the grass area and public open space would not be lost, adding: "It's not a designated play area.

"A play area to the north is included in the proposals."

Conditions were also set to deal with the anticipated problems of vandalism and noise — the fire doors must be kept shut except in emergencies and security lighting must be installed.

Cllr Roland Dibbs said he hoped the new building would be maintained.

He added: "The present hall is a complete failure and drain on funds.

"There's no way we can keep it up."

Cllr Dibbs said Rushmoor Council could use its licensing powers to control use of the hall late at night.