A housing development proposed for the town centre crams too many homes into a high-profile site, according to Shaftesbury Town Council.
The style of the houses and the lack of affordable homes failed to impress councillors, who opposed the plan. ThisIsAlfred.com reports.
Developer Renaissance Retirement was given permission to build 28 apartments on the ATS site, opposite the Bell Street Car Park, back in 2017. The former garage was demolished and the land alongside New Road was fenced off. Since then, in the words of Cllr Peter Yeo, it has been ‘a wasteland’.
Westcoast Developments has bought the site and wants to build 18 houses there. Chairing Tuesday’s Planning Meeting, Cllr Matthew Welch said that he was not pleased that the three-bedroom properties would be sold at market rate.
“The issue with this housing development is that it offers no affordable housing on it. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t bring in the people that we need in Shaftesbury. It wouldn’t allow people to get on the property ladder and it’s a shame to waste all of that space where people who work really hard, who don’t earn as much money, can’t buy the house. It’s shameful not to have it,” said Cllr Welch.
“I think we should be making every effort to enable people to get in the property market with some affordable housing,” agreed Cllr Peter Yeo.
The proposed homes would be arranged in two terraces of 7 and 9 houses at the front, along New Road, and the far edge of the site. Two additional semi-detached homes would be surrounded by the development’s parking bays, or ‘in the middle of their car park,’ as Cllr Phillip Proctor put it.
He didn’t hold back. He slated the ‘mediocre design’ of ‘insufficient quality’, calling the scheme ‘abysmal,’ and complaining that the ‘proportions, design, scale and everything about it is wrong’. Cllr Andy Hollingshead also appeared unimpressed, as he compared the design to that of ‘a 1995 Tesco’.
Cllr Proctor took issue with the use of render on the exteriors. “We know what render looks like in Shaftesbury. It’s really awful,” he said. He wanted greenstone or ashlar instead of the proposed buff brick and he was unhappy that ‘slate-style tiles’ were being suggested. Cllr Proctor argued that there should be either slates or tiles on the roof.
Some members were concerned that the three-storey homes would appear too tall. Cllr Andy Hollingshead felt the proposal appeared ‘very crowded’. The style, “doesn’t reflect the way in which houses have been built in that part of town over the last few hundred years. They are usually more spaced out,” he said.
Cllr Welch agreed. “That area is an integral part of the town character and I think it should stick with the local building designs. It would be a shame to see it as it was portrayed in the planning application,” Matthew said.
Cllr Yeo sees the benefit of building town centre homes, though. He reckons it could keep our centre vibrant. He acknowledged that we, “have not seen the death of Shaftesbury High Street – yet.”
Residents’ vehicular access would be along Kings Hill, a short cul-de-sac that runs off New Road. Cllr Alex Chase was worried about more cars using a, ‘very bad place for road access’, on the junction between New Road, Bleke Street and the entrance to Bell Street Car Park. The applicant has attempted to address this worry, claiming that there has been just one personal injury accident recorded in the vicinity between 2014 and 2018.
Alex assumed that 18 homes means at least 30 cars would require access. And Cllr Hollingshead raised the prospect of traffic noise disturbing residents at the adjacent Abbeyfield Sheltered Housing.
The developers state that they don’t intend to fell trees, but Tree Group Member Bernard Ede warned of attempts by previous site owners to remove trees on the land in order to offer a better view down the hill. Councillors resolved to ask the Town Council’s ROSE Committee, which oversees open spaces, to consider Tree Preservation Orders.
“Some of these trees are extremely ancient and I just think we need to protect wildlife in Shaftesbury. It is the sort of message we want to push forward with the county declaring a climate emergency. I believe the Town Council should do all they can to support that and to take care of our environment and make sure it stays as beautiful as it is already,” said Cllr Welch.
Some Enmore Green residents are uneasy about being overlooked by the terrace planned for the edge of the slope. Cllr Yeo believes that the retention of trees should address this. “Although there were some concerns from locals that the houses to the rear would be overlooking their gardens, I don’t think it’ll be that bad because there are trees there, particularly if we get a tree preservation order on those trees,” Peter said.
Cllr Proctor raised an archaeological interest. He said that he had travelled along 40 metres of a possibly medieval tunnel from the bottom of Kings Hill toward the ATS site. He called for an archaeological survey on land where a Saxon hoard had previously been uncovered.
Although the Town Council has opposed the design and appearance of this development, Dorset Council will have the final say on this application. Cllr Yeo, who abstained from voting, hopes that the developers will now amend and resubmit their plans, having taken the Town Council’s comments on board. “Hopefully they will come back with a better redevelopment plan, incorporating designs with local stone, and maybe less densely populated and with more landscaping,” said Peter, adding, “There didn’t seem too much in the way of landscaping. It was mainly buildings, car parking and not a lot else.”