A £15m redevelopment of a run-down quarter of a town centre is poised to be given the green light.
More than two years after the development was first mooted for Havant, councillors have been recommended by officers to approve the bid this week.
But debate rages on about whether the apartment block – up to 13 storeys high in parts – will cast a shadow over the rest of the town centre.
Historic England has said the building would be ‘completely out of character’.
Developer Hampshire and Regional Property Group has proposed to build 130 flats with six large shops on the ground floor – the first phase of a £40m revamp of Market Parade.
There would be 58 spaces in a basement car park and the new development would be private-rented accommodation. But Havant historian Ann Griffiths remained unconvinced.
She said: ‘It’s completely out of proportion with the rest of Havant.’
Havant resident Ann Buckley, a member of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said it would be a ‘disaster for Havant’ if it was approved in its current form.
She added: ‘It is quite shocking that, despite very damning comments about this development from independent consultants, the recommendation is to approve this application.’
A conservation consultant contributes to the council’s planning report and has ‘serious concerns’.
But many in the town, including some traders, say Havant is crying out for regeneration and a night-time economy.
The application is in outline form, so final design features would be approved at a later date.
The council’s planning report says: ‘This site is critical to the wider success of the whole town, to create a reason to get off the train and stay in the “northern quarter” of the town rather than go straight to the more attractive Meridian – West Street – Solent Road “quarters”.’
It adds: ‘There has previously been no market interest in bringing forward proposals and this scheme could be the catalyst for the large scale redevelopment of this area.’
The planning meeting takes place on Thursday from 5pm at The Plaza in Havant.