Stanford Hill retirement flats plan for Lymington given green light at appeal
THE decision to approve controversial plans for 44 sheltered flats in Lymington have been slammed by local leaders who accuse government planning inspectors of being "intent on turning the town into an aged dormitory".
Renaissance Retirement's application for The Rise at Stanford Hill was thrown out by New Forest District Council in October last year on the grounds it would adversely impact the conservation area and nearby Listed buildings. The authority also said there was a real need for family homes in the area, and the town council warned Lymington was becoming the “retirement area for the south coast”.
That decision was appealed by the developer and, following a subsequent public inquiry in May, an inspector has approved the scheme, which will see the demolition of four buildings to make way for the three-storey apartment block, along with 34 parking spaces and a mobility scooter store.
But both the town council and conservation group the Lymington Society say the complex should not have been given consent.
Cllr Barry Dunning, who is also a district councillor, said: "How disappointing that the powers that be seem intent on turning Lymington into an aged dormitory.
"Every road that goes into Lymington is lined with old people's homes, and that's not the image we want for the town."
A spokesperson for the Lymington Society said members were "bitterly disappointed" by the decision, given there were already "over 50 such similar flats available for sale in the area at the moment".
"The society has tried to resist the loss of family homes in attractive garden settings along the major roads into the town; we took part in the public inquiry last month and felt there was a strong case against this development.
"This will seriously undermine the protections offered by the Lymington Local Distinctiveness Supplementary Planning Document, and we may now sadly see similar applications further changing the character of the “green arteries” into the town."
In a report announcing the decision, the inspector said it was "common ground" that NFDC cannot demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing land.
"During the course of the appeal, I have been supplied with no substantive evidence which suggests that there are any deliverable sites, other than the one subject to this appeal, which would make a meaningful contribution to the supply of sheltered housing in the short to medium term," they said.
"Whilst the council and appellant’s assessments differ on this point, both indicate a significant need for specialist housing for older people in the district over the plan period.
"Although some would prefer to see development of family housing, given the proportion of older residents already in the district, an alternative scheme to provide such dwellings is not before me in this appeal."
Turning to the council's concerns over any potential difficulties in relation to the sale of the flats, the inspector pointed out that the market for "age-restricted housing is necessarily smaller than that for general needs housing subject to no age restrictions".
Opponents had also warned that occupants of the proposed flats could come from outside the district, therefore not meeting a local need.
But the inspector highlighted that a similar scheme recently completed in Brockenhurst had been occupied by a "significant" number of local people.
"Although this relates to an individual scheme, and is thus a limited sample, I have been supplied with no substantiated evidence that would refute this or demonstrates that higher proportions of in-migration have occurred in respect of other schemes.
"Furthermore, in enabling older people to ‘down-size’ to smaller accommodation, which nonetheless would meet their needs, the proposed development would free up larger housing elsewhere, which would also have beneficial housing supply effects."
Dealing with the impact of the proposal on the character of the area and the nearby listed buildings in Highfield, the inspector argued the building would be "well assimilated" and set well back from Stanford Hill, behind tall trees.
"The appeal scheme would not, therefore, appear as an alien feature within this setting," they ruled.
"The location of the listed buildings on the brow of the hill and their scale – taken together with the set-back of the proposed development and the landscaping proposals to its front – would also ensure that these remain the pre-eminent structures marking the entry point to the historic town."
The report concluded: "Due to its adjacency to the town centre, its positioning within a settlement boundary, and its ready access to services, the appeal site is manifestly a sustainable location – a matter of common ground between the parties."