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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Planning News & Notes Dec 2017 - Jan 2018
THE COUNCIL OFFICES
We read that the Council has lost out on one aspect of the rather complicated situation regarding the former Council Offices on North Quay. The development company Acorn had wanted to buy the site and convert the building to 56 flats – what appeared to us a very dense development - without needing to apply for planning permission, based on the government allowing change of use from ‘office’ use class to residential.
Our Society objected, and following legal advice, the Council determined that the Council Offices were an individual ‘sui generis’ use, not within the ‘office’ use class, so that planning permission would be required for the proposed development.
Now the developers have won an appeal against that decision. The Inspector decided that the building does fall into the category of Office use, and therefore an application for planning permission would not be required for the conversion to residential use. Costs were not awarded against the Council as the Inspector concluded that they had not acted unreasonably.
All this rather appears to be past history, since the Council stopped the sale of the property to that company. Thus, although there is still a separate legal hurdle ahead, the Council can now proceed to make its own plans for appropriate development of this important site.
FOWELL BUXTON MONUMENT (Civic Society Special Award 2017).
We were very sad to hear of the damage to the stone decorative surround to the splendid monument on Bincleaves Green which commemorates Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, owner of Belfield House and MP for Weymouth in the 19th century, who worked tirelessly for the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire – achieved in 1833 – as well as other social reforms. The Society has donated £100 towards the repairs to the monument.
Our issues of June/July and August/September referred to the application to demolish the large house with a part-octagonal tower situated on Greenhill, without submitting any plans for its replacement for the Council to consider – an unusual situation in a Conservation Area where the building is specially noted in the Council’s Conservation Area Appraisal as an important local building. Not surprisingly permission was refused. Now, however, an appeal has been lodged – an increasingly common situation, at least in this area, where developers appear more emboldened to challenge the local authority’s decisions.
FORMER UNDERHILL JUNIOR SCHOOL, PORTLAND
The application for housing development on this site overlooking Chesil Cove was approved by the Council in November despite misgivings and massive opposition, including from our Society. This was to be subject to a requirement for an affordable housing contribution by the developers. But, as is so often the case, the applicants came back seeking some improvement to their own situation very soon after – in this case to drop the affordable housing contribution. This was referred to the District Valuer, who determined that the scheme was not sufficiently viable to provide the contribution. So, with evidently great reluctance on the part of some Members, the Council’s Planning Committee at their January meeting felt obliged to agree the removal of the affordable housing requirement. Pictures show the view looking South from the school over Chesil Cove, and the view from the SW Coast Path (at Chesil Cove) looking towards the school.
SIGNS ON ROUNDABOUTS
We are all familiar with the officially approved advertising signs sprinkled on our main roundabouts in the area, promoting businesses quite unrelated to the roundabout in question. Now this commercialisation of roundabouts is planned to go a step further, with applications for signs in four new, and in our view totally unsuitable, locations – on the small roundabouts at Mercery Road by Sainsbury’s, to the rear of the Pavilion by the car park, at the Castletown roundabout by Osprey Leisure Centre, and at Portland Bill.
These are supposedly ‘Sponsorship Signs’, but as we understand it, the County Council has no intention of using the revenue from them for maintaining the roundabouts in attractive condition – indeed for a tarmac circle that would be an irrelevance. We have written to object to all four of these signs, in particular the one at Portland Bill, though already at the time of writing one of them - the Mercery Road application - has now been approved.
The Society has been debating the possibility of further historic plaques (see October/ November report). We have contacted the Council suggesting a plaque or information board by the harbourside to commemorate the D-Day embarkations at the Ferry Steps - the famous scene of the troops descending the steps to their boats.
However, we have been informed that the Council does not consider it suitable yet, as the plans for developing the area and repairing the harbour wall are still awaited. The concept of some sort of information at this point has long been suggested, but always the plans are awaiting implementation, and so far, the Ferry Steps area remains just as before.
We have been pleased to see in the Dorset Echo’s ‘Guide’ a set of weekly Friday articles, each one illustrating a plaque in our area. Among these were a few of the rectangular brown plaques which the Society, together with the Borough Council, put up in 1994. We got in touch with the Echo to let them know of this, and they enquired if we would like one of these to be included in this series. As a result, our suggestion of the plaque at Gloucester Lodge, King George III’s summer residence, was featured in the Echo on Friday 2nd February.
CIVIC DAY, 16TH JUNE 2018 WEYMOUTH TOWN CENTRE CONSERVATION AREA
Our members have begun to consider how the Society might mark Civic Day this year. This is a nation-wide event initiated by Civic Voice, an umbrella organisation for all Civic Societies. Last year we took as a theme the lovely range of parks and gardens in the Borough, both Weymouth and Portland, in which the many Friends groups of the various parks played a full and active part.
This year the Society’s theme is to be the Town Centre Conservation Area and its historic buildings, celebrating the fine heritage in the area but not forgetting the poor condition of some of the buildings – Weymouth Town Centre has now become one of the many Conservation Areas designated as at risk, and with the general economic decline of our town centres this problem looks likely to worsen in the future.
The Council’s Scrutiny Committee has been considering how to improve the condition of the town centre in various ways, and has made reference to liaising with the Civic Society. There is a hopeful sign in a report to the Council’s Management Committee’s meeting on 6th February suggests transfer of a refund from car parking revenue to a one-off reserve, to be available for conservation enforcement and town centre improvements.