ECONOMICS won the day when councillors gave the go-ahead to a major business development in the green belt on the banks of the River Lymington.
Plans for industrial units at Haven Marine Park in Undershore Road, opposite the Town Quay conservation area, had sparked objections from the national park authority and Boldre Parish Council over the potential impact on the views and environment.
But after nearly an hour-and-a-half of debate on Wednesday, the proposal by Yacht Havens Group for 11 units in two separate buildings was approved by New Forest District Council’s planning committee.
Unusually, NFDC’s cabinet member for local economic development, Cllr Michael Harris, spoke personally in favour of the scheme, stressing its benefits for employment and the local marine industry.
He said: “It’s a very important industry in this area and we want to support this as best we can. It’s a facility that will enable business to be flexible, which they need in this day and age.
“We have [business centres] 49 near Lymington and IncuHive in New Milton which are very flexible facilities. This is the kind of thing that we need.”
As reported in the A&T, the application followed the refusal by NFDC last year of a similar proposal for 14 units on the same site, formerly used by Green Marine.
The latest version was up to 3.5 metres taller but with a broken roofline designed to echo old boat sheds. There is parking for 55 cars, including garages under the first-floor workspaces raised up to avoid flooding risk.
Planning officers recommended approval saying that despite concerns over the height it tidied up the messy plot and would provide “employment and economic benefits”.
Conditions included a ban on adding mezzanine levels inside as well as outdoor storage, and a requirement fort an evacuation plan in the event of rising waters.
Speaking for Yacht Havens Group, Mark Robinson said: “The main objective has been to provide a high quality design to accommodate the existing tenants and attract new business to the Lymington area.”
But there were fears the high-ceilinged, glass-fronted buildings would create light pollution into the national park and across the water and, with 24-hour operation permissible, end up disturbing the nearby Island Point apartment block.
Speaking for residents, Frank Stocks said: “In my 47 years as a practising planner I have never come across an application that so goes against its previous refusal.”
Cllrs John Olliff-Cooper and Alan Penson, both from Lymington wards, opposed the plans despite declaring their support for the principle of redevelopment.
Cllr Olliff-Cooper warned the garages would end up as storage instead of designated parking and predicted the extra traffic on the narrow access track would lead to congestion on Undershore Road which leads to the ferry terminal.
Hampshire County Council, the highways authority, had not raised any objections, however.
Cllr Penson added: “[The plan] obviously improves the area and provides space that we desperately need. But it could be better. It would take a little time to revise this thoroughly to come back to us, and we would get it right.”
Others strongly backed the commercial advantages with Cllr Fran Carpenter saying: “It’s going to provide a lot of employment opportunity which I feel overrides the concerns expressed. I think it’s well designed and quite impressive.”
Cllr Maureen Holding pointed out the Lymington Shores flats development on the other side of the river was much taller and added: “I am fully in support of this. I think it’s much improved and far better that what is there at the moment.”
Councillors voted by 13 votes to four to allow the proposals.