North Quay Borough Council offices WON'T be demolished

North Quay Borough Council offices WON'T be demolished

Published by George Sharpe at 1:18pm 6th September 2019.

DEMOLITION plans for the former borough council offices at Weymouth’s North Quay have been turned down.

In a surprise move the Dorset Council application was thrown out by the council’s area planning committee.

It decided that the building should be re-used – citing a national planning policy to convert older buildings, where possible.

Several councillors said that the authority had signed up to climate emergency measures and should act according to those principles.

North Quay Council Offices won't be demolished and turned into 60 car parking spaces
North Quay Council Offices won't be demolished and turned into 60 car parking spaces

There was also concern that the estimated £3million cost of the demolition and levelling the site for use as a car park would come out of the public purse – and fears that the harbourside land might remain as a car park for several years.

Developer Nigel Ewans told the planning committee that his company, Jurassic Coast Holdings, was still willing to convert the former offices into luxury apartments, using the core of the building and changing its external appearance – which would bring in far more income for the council which could be used to buy affordable housing elsewhere.

“There have been six different bids, in excess of £6million, which have not been given consideration by the council…please reject the demolition until all the options have been professionally evaluated,” he said.

The move to reject the demolition and put in 60 temporary car park spaces was led by Green councillor Kelvin Clayton (Bridport) and passed by a majority vote.

Councillors voted against demolishing the former borough council offices at North Quay
Councillors voted against demolishing the former borough council offices at North Quay

Votes against the refusal

One of the few to vote against the refusal was Littlemoor & Preston councillor Louie O’Leary who said that despite his grandfather being site manager during the construction the building should come down:

“It’s a travesty on the skyline..it looks awful then and it is now: it has to go,” he said.

But Graham Perry, who owns one of the nearby High Street shops, disagreed with demolishing what he described as a ‘beautiful building’.

“The building is re-usable, Acorn (the previous developers) intended to re-use it…it’s a fine building of its time, faced with Portland stone and could provide useful space without demolition.”

Weymouth Town Council climate emergency

Another public speaker, Rex Johnson, called on the council to ‘act responsibly’ after signing up to a climate emergency. He said the demolition would also be harmful to the surrounding conservation area.

“The amount of public money to demolish this building its not justified – the same money could be used for affordable housing,” he said.

Cllr Nick Ireland said he was at a loss to understand why the council wanted to spend public money on demolition to help out a developer. He said if demolition were to eventually go ahead the council should only consider it if there was a firm re-development proposal on the table at the same time.

Weymouth councillor Pete Barrow said he was ‘uncomfortable’ about the demolition, fearing that if it were approved the site could remain as a car park for a long time.

Bridport Cllr Sarah Williams said that Historic England had warned that demolition would be detrimental to the conservation area:

“It should not be demolished until there is a new scheme for the site,” she said.

The four-storey building, which was officially opened in June 1971 by Princess Anne, had been set for a housing development by Dorchester-based Magna Housing, working with Dorset Council, which has applied for a £2.5m Homes England grant to pay for demolition and preparation work.

By Local Democracy Reporter, Trevor Bevins