Members discuss planning issues at the monthly meetings, and each month the Planning and Environment Committee meet to review recent planning applications and other planning matters. They also consider follow up actions which may be taken on behalf of members. The notes are prepared and edited by Brenda Pickett.
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The whole Weymouth Town Centre Conservation Area is now officially placed on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register, described in the following terms – ‘Condition – very bad, Vulnerability – medium, Trend – deteriorating significantly’.
The Council’s Scrutiny Committee has in recent months made a study of it, with action recommended, including seeking funding and using their powers to secure improvements to historic buildings, provision of a shopfront and advertisement design guide, working with the BID, designating a Conservation Officer to support the Heritage Champion and the Town Centre Manager and improving the pedestrianised area.. This was considered by the Management Committee on 31st October, who have referred it on for further consideration.
Several references were made in the report to possible Civic Society participation. We have for a very long time been active in promoting and interpreting the history of the town, including of course restoring and running the Tudor House and Nothe Fort. In 1994 twenty historic brown plaques were erected in co-operation with the Borough Council.
Many years ago the Society first created Town Walk leaflets, which have since been revised – the last time in 2013, which resulted in three Walks covering the town centre, Esplanade and harbour area. These have been available to the public ever since, and were recently given to all the Borough Councillors. We are currently considering how best to further promote the fine heritage from past eras, with the possibility of a History Group being formed, and action such as creating further historic plaques or information boards discussed – one suggestion is to mark the D-Day embarkation point by the Ferry Steps. The Civic Society has already suggested this to the Council, particularly to interest the large number of cruise visitors from America now visiting the town. We are waiting for a reply on the Council’s policy, which was to be determined.
There has also been much public interest recently in the town centre, its history, and the serious need for improvement. A meeting at the Old Town Hall held under other auspices than the Civic Society was very well attended, with a lively company of people who genuinely wished to get active and do something.
Working parties of volunteers are among ideas suggested as possibilities as an outcome of this meeting. Having been concerned for very many years about the condition of the town centre, the Civic Society are very pleased at the more widespread recognition of the problems.
We hope to formulate ideas as to how effective action can be taken to tackle the neglect and decay that detract so badly from the historic fabric. A group of our members met the new Town Centre Manager Edward Warr, who demonstrated clearly his very practical attitude to the task in hand and his already impressive grasp of the facts and figures relevant to a wide variety of town centre related topics.
One of the main topics exercising out minds and activities has been the Annual Awards. The Annual Awards Evening itself was a well-attended event, with members and guests treated to fine refreshments afterwards.
A full account of this year’s awarded projects can be seen on the Awards page, where now for the first time there is also a considerable archive of earlier awards, dating back to the very first ones.
UNDERHILL JUNIOR SCHOOL Despite strong opposition to the proposal for housing on the site of the school, the revised application has now been approved by Councillors, subject to agreements etc. Even with the modified design, which is slightly less intrusive on the coast scenery of Chesil Cove, there were still over 100 representations from the public on various issues. In the end it was decided on a 5-4 vote.
MOUNT PLEASANT AVENUE SOUTH Further details of the scheme for 18 houses on the site of the former care home, to which we had objected, have now been submitted to the Council. The main difference is that houses on the main road frontage are to have their own driveways rather than communal parking. So far no representations from the public have been registered, now that the principle of the development is fully established.
53 RODWELL ROAD In the last ‘News’ a revised planning application had been submitted for six apartments on this very tight corner site by Rodwell Avenue. Along with a good number of local people, we have again made a very strong objection to the overdevelopment of the site, the inappropriate design for the area, inadequate car parking, and the closeness of the building to the main road, resulting in poor sight lines at the junction. However, the applicants have again appealed following non-determination by the Council – a most unusual use of the planning system in the Weymouth area.
7 NETHERTON ROAD This was another proposal involving an appeal. It involved the demolition of a single family house and replacement by 8 flats, to which the Society objected as overdevelopment with quite inadequate car parking. There were around 70 representations on this planning application; the Council refused the application, and the applicants appealed. Finally, no doubt to everyone’s relief, the Planning Inspector has now dismissed the appeal.
HUT 45, PORTLAND BILL There has been quite a saga about a large so-called beach hut in the small group of huts by the Red Crane at the Bill (see Planning Notes for April/May). When the planning application for it was being considered, we had expressed our concern at its excessive size, especially in this sensitive location. However, it rapidly gained permission and was soon constructed – but even larger than the permitted plans had indicated. So a fresh application was required for the hut as constructed, by which time it had become a local cause celebre, even reaching the national news. Now the Council has refused this application – but what will happen now, and where will it end?
THORNLOW SCHOOL As previously reported, the Society objected to the dense development of flats that had been proposed for the old Thornlow School in Connaught Road. A good number of local people made strong representations about it, especially in connection with the need for adequate off-street car parking in this area near the school where there is daily congestion in the morning and afternoon.
That planning application was withdrawn, but now the developers are proposing to retain the main buildings in a modified form, and add a large house in the triangle of space remaining. The plans still only provide one parking space for each of the nine 2- and 3-bedroom apartments.
THE ‘JURASSIC COAST HIGHWAY’ (WESTERN RELIEF ROAD)
There has been increasing acknowledgement of the problem of traffic congestion on the main routes through the town – Westwey Road/Boot Hill/Buxton Road/Portland Road – closely linked with the possibility of relieving it by the construction of a bypass west of Wyke Regis.
A meeting called by Portland Port was attended on the Society’s behalf by Pru Bollam and Gerald Mabb, and there was widespread discussion of various aspects of the situation. This had been brought to a head partly following a proposal in a Council consultation document to designate a parcel of land by Chickerell Road (Site Ch2) for housing. This field lies directly on the safeguarding route of the Western Relief Road as originally planned by the County Council but since dropped. We shall now have to wait and see what if anything results from the meeting and other discussions that have taken place on the subject, and what decision will be made on Site Ch2.