DEVELOPERS are awaiting the outcome of a £10 million plan to transform a prime town centre site in Hampshire.
Renaissance Retirement wants to bulldoze Lymington‘s former bus station and redevelop the site by building a shop and 17 sheltered apartments for the elderly.
Its initial application was rejected by New Forest District Council last year after being described as “totally uninspiring” at a planning committee meeting.
Renaissance lodged an appeal but also submitted a revised scheme that aimed to overcome the objections.
The second application was also refused by the council, but the company appealed against that decision as well.
Both proposals include a retail unit at the front, plus 17 parking spaces hidden in an underground space accessed by a car lift.
The bus station closed in 2015, with operators blaming a reduction in services caused by bus subsidy cuts and an increase in fuel duty.
The High Street site is part of the Lymington Conservation Area and is also close to several Grade II listed buildings including Londesborough House.
One of the 50 objections to the first application was lodged by the council’s own conservation team, which claimed the proposed development would have an adverse impact on the conservation area.
The Lymington Society wants any new development on the site to include a “substantial” retail element.
“This would maintain the vibrancy of the the town centre which, as with so many others, is challenged by out-of-town retail use and now internet shopping,” said the chairman, Clive Sutton.
Fellow campaigner Don Mackenzie added: “This could be the last chance to help bolster and maintain the vitality of Lymington’s High Street.
“We are determined to stop this unsuitable and damaging development, which could set a very dangerous precedent for the conversion of other flats to yet more unwanted retirement flats.”
Both appeals have now been heard at an inquiry chaired by a government-appointed planning inspector.
Speaking after the hearing Simon McFarlane, associate director of planning at Renaissance Retirement, said: “There’s a critical need for housing, specifically older people’s housing, in the New Forest.
“The benefits of the proposed development include the filling in of an uncharacteristic gap in the High Street, the improvement in the setting of Londesborough House and other listed buildings, and the introduction of a high quality development.”
The result of the inquiry is expected to be announced in the next few weeks.
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