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Plan for homes at Steamer Point rejected despite being recommended for approval

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Steamer Point revised designs refused by BCP
Steamer Point revised designs refused by BCP

COUNCILLORS have refused planning permission for the controversial redevelopment of the Steamer Point site in Christchurch with 26 flats and houses.

Despite being recommended to approve the scheme, BCP Council’s planning committee voted to reject Pennyfarthing Homes’ proposals for the former Coastguard complex, writes Josh Wright of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

They said people had accepted the site would be redeveloped but that the construction of flats and the removal of trees were not in keeping with its clifftop location.

Most recently used by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), the land at Steamer Point, next to the nature reserve, was bought several years ago by developer Pennyfarthing.

The MCA had previously won planning permission for homes there following an appeal against the then-Christchurch Borough Council for twice refusing schemes.

Pennyfarthing has been seeking permission to build a block of flats as part of its redevelopment plans. Its application proposed a four-storey block of 17 flats alongside nine homes.

But more than 150 people objected, including ward councillors, and Cllr Nigel Brooks called it in for consideration by BCP Council’s planning committee.

He said building flats in that area was against policy and raised concerns about the “detrimental” impact the development would have on the neighbouring nature reserve.

Despite this, council planning officer Kim Bowditch recommended permission be granted, although she said her judgement was “finely balanced”.

But speaking at the committee meeting, Cllr Brooks again urged the application be rejected. He said: “To ask for a four-storey block of flats on the most prominent part of the site is totally wrong and inappropriate, both on policy grounds and aesthetics.”

Cllr Lesley Dedman, who represents Mudeford, Stanpit and West Highcliffe, said the plans were “not in tune” with the area.

Their position was backed by the planning committee which agreed to support Cllr Dedman’s ward colleague, and committee member, Cllr Paul Hilliard, who proposed permission be refused.

He said his proposal was made “on the basis of scale and mass” of the proposed development.

Cllr Steve Baron, one of 11 committee members to back Cllr Hilliard, said the scheme was not suitable for that part of the conurbation.

“The sheer massing is completely out of keeping for the area,” he said. “If it was an application on the West Cliff in Bournemouth I’d be looking at it very differently.”

Four councillors voted against refusing the application.

After the meeting Pennyfarthing director Ben Arnold said the company was “very disappointed” to have been refused after spending three years of engagement with the planning authority to gain the backing of officers.

He said: “We believe the scheme is an excellent, high quality design and redevelopment of an existing derelict Brownfield site which will not only provide 26 new homes towards BCP’s underperforming housing numbers but it would also provide a further seven new affordable homes in Highcliffe which are in need.

“We are currently considering our options on the next steps but this outcome certainly brings into question the value of pre-app engagement with the local authority where they directed us towards incorporating a four-storey block of apartments into the scheme only to use this against us as a reason for refusal.”

This article was amended on 25th March 2021 to add a reaction from Pennyfarthing Homes.

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