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Aster Homes unveils plan for 131 homes at former Christchurch police station site

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Aster Homes' plans for the 143,000 square foot Barrack Road site in Christchurch
Aster Homes' plans for the 143,000 square foot Barrack Road site in Christchurch

FULL plans to transform the former Christchurch police station site with 131 homes and commercial space have been submitted months after an outline scheme was revealed at a public exhibition.

Aster Homes’ application to the borough council for the 143,000 square foot Barrack Road plot will necessitate the demolition of the police station, magistrates court, Goose and Timber pub and numbers 23 and 41 Barrack Road, along with the closure of Bargates car park and loss of some parking spaces at Pit Site.

Also proposed for the development are 39 sheltered accommodation units, ‘flexible’ commercial and community space which could include a museum, a new link road between Barrack Road and Bargates, and public open space.

The exhibition in May was held following an initial community consultation. Concerned residents who attended criticised the loss of the two car parks which currently provide 155 spaces, and voiced fears of increased traffic on already congested roads

As a result the developers made alterations, and the latest plan includes the retention of 15 spaces at Pit Site, a reduction in road design with the aim of avoiding a ‘car-led development’, more parking within a central courtyard and a focus on retail exclusively at the frontage to the Fountain roundabout.

Larger buildings will front the roundabout, Bargates and Barrack Road.

Two Puffin crossings will be installed near the entrance to Pit Site along with a pedestrian island near the proposed main residential access on Barrack Road.

The former police station off Barrack Road, Christchurch
The former police station off Barrack Road, Christchurch

A statement by Aster’s agents, Savills, which accompanies the plans, says: “These improvements will help not only to improve highway safety for pedestrians crossing these roads but are also a physical measure that will help to make walking a more attractive option for residents.

“Movement priority will need to be focused on pedestrians who will be placed at the top of the hierarchy.”

Fifty-three of the housing units, which will include one and two-bed flats and two and three-bed family homes, would be “affordable”, with “a mix that is closely attuned to local needs”, the statement adds, and says the planned “bespoke” elderly accommodation could help larger family homes become available elsewhere.

It claims a substantial number of new residents moving into the new homes would add to the vibrancy of the town, and the development will offer “substantial visual enhancement over the current, substantially underused and dilapidated site”.

Aster was selected as the preferred bidder for the site by landowners Christchurch Bor-ough Council, Dorset County Council, Dorset Police and the Hospital of St Mary Magdalen Trust, fol-lowing a competitive tender process.

The final plans were formed following extensive community and business engagement with changes including reducing non-residential space – which has already generated expressions of interest from organisations, including an educational visitor attraction.

The developer says the application could deliver its “largest ever land-led scheme”.

Amanda Williams, group development director at Aster Group, said: “Our vision is that everyone has a home and at the heart of our organisation, we are focused on providing homes for those that need them, and at a price point they can afford.

“This proposed development of affordable housing in Christchurch, is a great example of how we take feedback from a local community and shape a plan that delivers a mixture of homes which serve a local need. We look forward to hearing feedback on our application in the new year.”

A spokesperson for Christchurch council said no date for determining the application had yet been made, but generally decisions on major proposals can take many months.

“It is considered likely that the application will go to planning committee given the significance of the proposal to Christchurch town centre,” the spokesperson explained, adding the site was identified in the local plan as being suitable for new retail and high density housing.

Comments can be made on Aster Homes’ application until 30th December.

The scheme was welcomed by local resident Adrian Dwyer, who since the closure of the town’s electricity museum in 2012 has been campaigning for the creation of a science and engineering discovery centre.

“Our community group, Mission Ignition, tried to persuade the owners of the beautiful Edwardian power station to re-invent the museum as a science discovery centre, but discussions with the owners SSE Plc remain ongoing,” Mr Dwyer told the A&T.

“The opportunity to have a science and engineering discovery centre within the Aster Homes development of the old police station site has arisen, and been met with open arms from all interested parties.”

If realised, the centre would enable visitors and residents to experience, handle and explore cutting-edge technology through exhibits and a maker space, Mr Dwyer continued. Themed exhibitions would reflect local science-based business and technology invented in Christchurch, such as mobile phone technology, the Black Box flight data recorder, night-sight optics, and the Bailey Bridge.

Such a facility would increase footfall to town centre shops and cafes and provide a resource for community groups such as U3A, Christchurch History Society and Café Scientifique, he said.

Mission Ignition co-founder Dr Jan Peters MBE, said: “Adrian Dwyer and I are passionate about engaging people in how science and technology affects our lives and can change the world for the better. Having an informed conversation, with young and old, is vital to addressing problems faced by society and ensuring people have a choice of the full range of career options.

“Local and national science and engineering-based companies are desperately short of key skills, so it is critical to their success that we help show people the possible choices they can have.”

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