DORSET Council is to go ahead with flats in a Bridport property, although some may be too small to meet national minimum standards.

The council’s area planning committee has agreed a proposal to divide four flats into eight at West Rivers House, 13 West Allington on the outskirts of Bridport town centre.

The flats are intended for short-term emergency homeless accommodation.

Planners heard that some will be 22 square metres – much less than the national ‘technical’ minimum standard of 37 square metres for single-bed units, although some of the West Allington units are listed as ‘studio flats’ for which there is said to be no national standard.

Said Chickerell councillor Jean Dunseith: “The report we have says some of this accommodation is ‘not in accordance with nationally agreed space standards’… I wouldn’t be too happy about asking someone to live in it for a few months, but for a few nights it’s better than the alternative.”

Planning officer Huw Williams told the area committee: “Smaller, self-contained units will provide a better standard of accommodation and a more flexible resource to meet housing needs.”

Cllr Kate Wheller says she was also worried about the small size of the units, but said it had to be treated as an exception to help tackle the rising number of homeless people.

“It’s a very sensible use of this building for these times,” she said, proposing it be agreed.

Cllr Paul Kimber seconded the proposal – saying that when he once found himself without a roof over his head he was grateful for what was offered, irrespective of the size.

Ward councillor Dave Bolwell told the meeting that Bridport Town Council backed the application, although it did not fully comply with the neighbourhood plan, and did not want the question of undecided land ownership between the town council and Dorset Council to stop the flats going ahead. Both he and fellow Bridport Councillor Kelvin Clayton were barred from voting at the meeting, having backed the proposal when the town council debated it.

Also on the site, in addition to the town council store, is the Oh Crumbs Café and Magna housing’s local office.

Magna had previously used the building for homeless people and to accommodate young people who were considered ‘at risk’.

The changes will be mainly on the first and second floors to create the flats with the addition of a communal room on the second floor.

The building is known locally as West Rivers House although Dorset Council described it as Boldwood House in its planning application.