BCP Council (former Christchurch Borough): Chris Miell has recently won an appeal against BCP Council and secured planning permission for the erection of 8 x flats, 3 x terraced houses and 1 x commercial unit with associated car parking and vehicular access at a former car park site located on the corner of Sopers Lane and High Street, Christchurch.

The site is located at the edge of Christchurch town centre and occupies a prominent position at a corner junction adjacent to the Fountain Island roundabout. It is readily visible from a number of localised viewpoints by both pedestrians and people travelling along the roads, and it will be familiar to readers who regularly travel through Christchurch.

Despite the unattractive appearance of the existing car park, the site falls with the Central Christchurch Conservation Area. The impact of the proposed development upon the character and appearance of the conservation area was a key area of dispute between the main parties at appeal, with Planners at BCP Council arguing that the proposal would neither preserve or enhance the conservation area. The proposed development, which was designed by ARC Architecture, was informed by other traditional buildings within the conservation area. In particular, the scale, mass, height and positioning of the proposed buildings was designed to complement the existing buildings located either side of the site.

Contrary to the Council’s position, we argued that the proposal would significantly enhance the character and appearance of this gateway location at the edge of Christchurch town centre and the special interest of the conservation area, whilst utilising land in an efficient manner to deliver much-needed housing within a sustainable town centre location.

The Inspector agreed with our arguments and concluded “the effect of the development on the character and appearance of the area, including Conservation Area, would be acceptable. The development would therefore comply with Policy HE1 of the CS, which supports the application of national policy in relation to heritage; Policy HE2 of the CS which seeks to secure development that is compatible with or improves its surroundings; Policy LN2 of the CS which allows for high density development in town centres where this would not have an adverse effect on character; saved Policy BE4 of the Local Plan 2001 (the LP) which sets out criteria for development in conservation areas, all of which would be met; and saved Policy H12 of the LP which again seeks to secure development appropriate to the locality.”  On that basis, the appeal was allowed and planning permission was granted for the proposed development.

In addition, we made an application for an award of costs with the appeal because we felt that the Council’s decision was unreasonable and lacked justification. This application was successful, with the Inspector concluding that “the Council has failed to provide any clear explanation of why it considers that the proposed development would give rise to less than substantial harm to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area, and harm to visual amenity…

Our client was understandably delighted with the appeal decision and they are now looking forward to redeveloping this under-utilised site within Christchurch town centre to deliver a commercial unit and 11 residential dwellings which will help to meet identified housing needs and revitalise this area of the town centre, in a manner that would enhance the character and appearance of the conversation area. If you have recently been refused planning permission and would like to know whether it is worth appealing, then why not call Pure Town Planning on 01202 585524 or email info@puretownplanning.co.uk to see how we can help you.