Flats plan wins approval as councillors run out of reasons to refuse
DISTRICT councillors have expressed dismay at being left with little choice other than to allow the demolition of a large home in an exclusive Barton road to make way for eight new flats.
The controversial scheme to develop the site of Perhaver on Barton Common Road was considered by New Forest District Council’s planning committee for the third time on Wednesday morning.
It was strongly opposed by 28 residents and New Milton Town Council’s planning committee, but NFDC’s head of planning warned committee members that a previous appeal decision meant that there were no “realistic” grounds for refusing the scheme.
Claire Upton-Brown noted that the application had been considered by a government planning inspector who concluded that the design, impact on neighbours and parking were all appropriate.
She said: “If we refuse this we are very likely to find ourselves facing an application for costs for unreasonable behaviour.”
The meeting heard the applicant AJ Developments had been refused three times by New Forest District Council for between eight and 12 homes on the site since December 2017.
However, when the authority’s most recent refusal was considered by a government planning inspector last year it was concluded that the demolition of the existing Arts and Craft-style 1930s home would not be harmful to the local area.
It also concluded the proposed building would be suitable in size and scale for the spacious location and it would not be harmful to the amenity of neighbours.
A report to the planning committee concluded: “Although the town council and many local residents have put forward contrary views, it is considered difficult to refuse permission for the proposal under these circumstances and approval is therefore recommended.”
Speaking in support of the scheme, planning agent Dan Wilden said: “Your council’s ecology officers are satisfied with this scheme and that it will result in a net biodiversity gain.
“In the light of the very clear direction of the planning inspectorate, I conclude that there is only one reasonable course of action for this council and that is to approve this scheme in line with your officer’s recommendations.”
Overcome with emotion, Pauline Francis, a neighbour of the proposed development site said: “This will make a tremendous difference to my life – where I used to have views, all of it will be completely blanked out.
“The appeal inspector had no scale drawing of my cottage compared to the proposal, nor did he come onto my land to assess the impact that this will have.”
Cllr Keith Craze of New Milton Town Council described Perhaver as “an architectural feature” of Barton Common Road, overlooking the common, a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
He continued: “Unsurprisingly not only the town council and the residents of Barton Common Road, but also the wider New Milton residents – represented by their association of some 3,000 members – do not wish to see this road becoming a reflection of the entry road into another nearby seaside community which is now dominated by blocks of flats.”
Cllr Anne Corbridge described the application as “a complete disgrace” adding: “I understand why we are here but I will not be supporting this is any way, shape or form.
“It looks like any other block of flats and it will go as second homes. This will not add anything to our need for homes in the district.”
But Cllr Bennison countered: “An appeal inspector has accepted every element of this except the habitat mitigation. Whether we like it or not, we don’t have any more grounds for refusal.”
Cllr Davis described the current property as “a lovely building” and said: “I very much hear that people are talking from the heart but this will be very difficult for us to refuse.”
Cllr Barry Dunning said: “I think we all agree that we don’t like this at all – it is the loss of a beautiful Arts and Crafts building for what gain?”
Cllr Maureen Holding said NFDC should not be afraid to refuse permission again stating: “I’m not afraid to say this is wrong, and if something is really, really wrong we need to stick to our guns. Local people don’t want this and we must support them.”
Cllr Fran Carpenter also said she could not support the application, adding: “This used to be a road of special character but the local distinctiveness guidelines don’t seem to mean anything anymore.”
Planning permission for the scheme was narrowly granted by six votes to five. Six members abstained.