AJC Group’s revised flats plan for former Becton Centre NHS site at Barton fail to impress New Milton councillors
REVISED plans to transform a former NHS site at Barton into a block of flats have still not satisfied local councillors.
Lack of parking and intrusion on neighbours were among criticisms in New Milton Town Council planning committee’s strong opposition to the proposal for the now-vacant Becton Centre on The Fairway.
As reported by the A&T, Poole-based developer AJC Group’s original application for 31 properties was thrown out by New Forest District Council in July.
Numerous reasons included an “excessive” number of flats and impact on neighbours, protected trees and effect on the area’s character.
In October it submitted a fresh bid, with 27 flats on a “reduced footprint” and an amended layout further separating buildings and trees.
AJC also said it had taken a “more traditional design approach” and addressed concerns over a lack of parking provision with a “proportionate increase”.
But, discussing the latest proposal at a recent meeting, New Milton planning committee members were still unimpressed.
They again felt there was not enough parking, the hard surfacing would impact the area’s character and, with the greater roof height, the proposal’s scale and mass was an issue.
Despite the increased distance from the buildings, they again said window and balcony positions would add pressure to prune-protected trees.
The plan was branded an overdevelopment as although the unit numbers had dropped, bed spaces were up by one.
The committee also felt neighbouring properties would feel overlooked due to balconies and the second storey.
Mayor Cllr David Hawkins has already been outspoken about the plans, and was criticised by the developer for saying its previous scheme would turn the site into “a hellhole”.
Speaking to the A&T after the recent planning meeting, his views remained unchanged.
“It’s still too tall and it’s still too intrusive to the bungalows in front of it,” Cllr Hawkins said.
“It’s still going to be a nightmare with parking. It was pretty dreadful for parking when the Becton Centre was there.
“The builders seem to be thinking more to get rid of cars, but do you think people would want to get rid of their cars? I don’t.”
Cllr Hawkins suggested a more efficient and less costly solution would be for work to be carried out on the existing building, which he believed was still “in good nick”.
“You could turn it into a nice maisonette or flats or whatever without messing up the area and intruding on neighbouring properties,” he continued.
“Obviously, it’s in the hands of the district council. I just hope they agree with us.”
Responding to the criticism, AJC Group director David Cracklen insisted the apartments would be a “comprehensive, well considered, and attractive development on a derelict brownfield site”.
“The traditional and sustainable scheme would provide numerous opportunities and benefits for the local community,” Mr Cracklen told the A&T.
“This includes housing for first-time buyers which has been identified in the neighbourhood plan as a necessity for the local area due to the lack of existing supply for local people looking to get their first step on the housing ladder.”
Stressing the latest proposal took the town and district council’s concerns into account, he maintained the parking allocation had been carefully considered to meet resident and visitor needs.
“In line with local policy the plans also retain the important trees across the site, with additional tree planting and ecological enhancements delivering at least a 10% biodiversity net gain and protecting the privacy of existing residential properties,” Mr Cracklen continued.
"We are confident our revised plans mitigate previous concerns raised and that this is a viable new development opportunity that can only bring benefit to the local area along with much-needed new homes.”
The public consultation ends on Friday and NFDC is due to make a decision by 15th January 2024.