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 Council’s Scrutiny and Performance Committee has formed a Working Group to look into the whole condition of the Town Centre Conservation Area in various aspects. They have compiled a report, updated following a questionnaire of businesses, which makes a range of practical recommendations for tackling the wide-ranging issues and problems. Within the report were suggestions of potential Civic Society involvement. This may be seen as an opportunity for our Society to make our views known and work to further the improvement of this important area of the town.
LOCAL PLAN REVIEW
Following the consultation on the proposed Local Plan Review, the Council has issued a report summarising the responses to their Issues and Options paper. The link for this is given as www.dorsetforyou.gov.uk/local-plan-review. Our own comments are summarised within it, among all the other various responses. The next stage will be a Preferred Options document.
COUNCIL OFFICES, NORTH QUAY
We will all have read that the Council has pulled out of the sale of the Council Offices to a company whose plans involved creating as many as 56 flats in the existing building, with only 19 vehicle parking spaces and apparently no amenity space. As they would have been purchasing the whole site including two car parks, the possibility of yet further development all over the car parks in addition to all the flats in the building itself was very worrying. Another worry is the company’s threat of suing the Council. However, suddenly after all this time, we have been shown what the company says it would wish to develop on the site of the two car parks – a block of flats on each side of the building, apparently taking up the whole area.
Before this, the company had appealed, following the Council’s determination that the use of the building is ‘sui generis ‘ – that is, it does not fall within the specific term ‘offices’. This means that the government’s scheme, which permits a change of use from offices to residential without the need for planning permission, would not be applicable - with the result that planning permission would be required. We have written in support of the Council in this matter.
Meanwhile we must hope that the Council will work really hard to make sure that the best possible scheme is planned for and secured by adequate requirements and agreements with any potential developer, to ensure that this significant site fronting the Inner Harbour will be designed sympathetically to the character of this rather special area.
One other consideration should surely be the need for car parking on the south side of the harbour, now that the proposals for the two Brewers Quay car parks are to result in only 38 spaces remaining for the general public. The serious need for parking in this area has been highlighted in respect of Holy Trinity Church, the marina berths and businesses – and of course for tourists to access the South Harbourside area. Should part of the site be retained in Council ownership for car parking purposes? Whatever the details, let us hope that wise decisions are taken for the future of this important site.
23 AND 27 OLD CASTLE ROAD
Planning applications for three houses at No. 23 Old Castle Road and two houses at No. 27 have both now been approved by the Council – a not unexpected outcome in view of the permission previously granted for three houses on the 23 Old Castle Road site. Both these approvals will result in a total change to the ambience of the pretty tree-lined cove, with five large modern houses rearing up behind it, and of course also major alterations to the road frontage.
UNDERHILL JUNIOR SCHOOL
Following an outcry about the proposals for housing on the site of the old school (see our Committee’s April/May ‘News’ under the heading Redundant Sites, and June/July ‘News’), the developers have submitted a revised scheme. The sharply pointed gables of the houses facing out over Chesil Cove and the World Heritage Jurassic Coast landscape, to which we had objected, have been removed, with the roofs instead turned by 90 degrees to a more conventional appearance. However, the generally inappropriate character of the houses in this sensitive area - and various other aspects of the development - remain unchanged, with the result that we and others have reaffirmed our objections. Indeed, the new plans show the houses even closer than previously to the edge of the cliff!
THORNLOW SCHOOL, CONNAUGHT ROAD
Good news that the planning application for redevelopment of the school for housing has been withdrawn (see also the April/May ‘News’ under the heading Redundant Sites). Not only were there our own objections as well as those of a good number of local people to this dense development of the site, but also the Conservation Officer would not support the plans and produced a very thorough assessment of a range of unsuitable aspects of the scheme.
Our June/July ‘News’ reported the unusual application for consent to demolish a house in the Greenhill Conservation Area without any plans for its replacement except for the bald statement that there would possibly be 8-10 flats. By the end of July the Council had acted decisively and refused the application on broadly the same grounds as we had suggested in our own comments to them.
MOUNT PLEASANT CARE HOME
The planning application for 18 houses on the site of the care home in Mount Pleasant Avenue South was refused by the Council, following numerous objections by local people and the Society. However, instead of submitting a more acceptable scheme with fewer houses, which could have satisfied many of the objections, the applicants chose to appeal directly to the Secretary of State. To the great disappointment of local residents, the appeal was allowed, and they can now go ahead with submitting detailed plans for this development.
53 RODWELL ROAD
We reported on this property at the junction of Rodwell Road and Rodwell Avenue (in the January/February ‘News’), which was the subject of a planning application for demolition of the house and construction of a block of six apartments, on what is just a modest sized house plot - a very tight site for such a scheme. We objected strongly to this proposal, which seemed to us quite unsuitable. The developers appealed, following the non-determination of the application by the Council, but we were pleased to see that quite soon after that they withdrew their appeal. Now they have devised a new set of plans in a fresh application - a different design, but again for six flats, and with the wall of the building brought forward even more, so that it directly abuts the pavement on Rodwell Road. This will be considered by our Committee in October.
BOND STREET TOILETS
A group of members were invited by the new owners to look around the building which houses the Bond Street toilets. It was encouraging to know that they plan to restore the whole premises , for use as a single family house, and were seeking Civic Society views on the details of restoration. Local historian Maureen Attwooll also attended and was able to fill in background information about the history of the building. It may be a long-term project, but it is good to hear of the enthusiasm of the owners to restore it well. Unfortunately, this does not solve the Council’s problem of providing satisfactory public conveniences along the Esplanade!
We have received a number of nominations for the Annual Awards, which will be considered in mid-October, with a final decision taken in November. If you have any other suggestions, please let us know as soon as possible – see details in the June/July ‘News’.