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Retail use approved for historic building
WEST Bay could have a new shopping opportunity in one of the harbour’s most historic buildings after planners rejected English Heritage objections.
Councillors on the West Dorset District Council development control committee gave the go-ahead for a change of use of the old warehouse at the former Norman Good’s yard on Station Road.
The structure is Grade II starred listed, which puts it in the top six per cent of heritage buildings and it is on the national Heritage at Risk Register.
An old Customs bonded store, the building dates back almost 275 years to Bridport harbour’s heyday as a thriving port.
The group of buildings backing on to the beach were used for decades as part of a business dealing in sand and gravel.
Currently they are being used for storage.
English Heritage had recommended that the application on behalf of the Weymouth Bay Developments be refused, claiming future plans for heritage benefits to the building and the site as a whole could be impeded.
But planning officers advised councillors that retail use on the site would be acceptable and could improve the “viability and vitality” of West Bay.
“While under current policy there is a loss in employment land, the draft local plan policies provide more flexibility for a range of employment uses, including retail, “ said case officer Sophie Wright.
“A retail use in a Grade II starred listed building is considered appropriate and while English Heritage has objections due to the lack of information about the potential impact on the heritage asset, it is our opinion that the local planning authority would retain control over future proposals.”
In a letter to West Dorset planners, architect James Francis of agents Durrants said that allowing the change of use would allow their client to have the confidence to move forward with negotiations with potential tenants.
He said: “Currently the application is to allow the building to be established as being class A1 use (shops) which will then enable our client to move the process of looking at regenerating this highly sensitive site with confidence.”
Local councillor David Tett said: “I do not share the view of English Heritage, but then I seldom do!
“The warehouse, through neglect, has been listed on the National Register as being at risk.
“The site is run down and the buildings, left as they are, will deteriorate still further.
“This building, in fact the whole site, needs to be brought back into use at the first possible opportunity.
“I am confident that a change of use to retail will help not only stimulate the economy of West Bay but also provide employment opportunities for many.”