CRITICS have hit out at contentious plans to squeeze hundreds of flats into a derelict building in Portsmouth – when hopes were high the land could have been used to create a high-end hotel.
The owners of Brunel House at The Hard have lodged a bid to refurbish the eyesore and put in 242 flats, rather than pull it down and work with a developer to redevelop the site into lucrative accommodation.
Flats this small would not normally obtain planning permission, but in this case we’re powerless to do anything about it.
And the work won’t need to go before a council committee first as the government has ruled office space can be turned into flats without the need for planning permission.
Tory planning boss Luke Stubbs warned the proposed ‘micro flats’ will be similar to a ‘large hotel room’.
Cllr Stubbs said: ‘Flats this small would not normally obtain planning permission, but in this case we’re powerless to do anything about it.’
‘The paperwork for this application is dated January 2015, so even though this notification has only just been submitted, the idea has been around for a while.
‘The council would much prefer a new development, particularly if it included a hotel or some other form of commercial activity and has had talks with the landowners on that basis.’
Cllr Stubbs says council officers would only be able to block the conversion if it was happening on contaminated land, if it would have an adverse impact on traffic and if there was a flooding risk.
He said the flats will range in size from 19.4m2 to 25.2m2, or 22.4m2 to 29m2, when taking into account the bathroom. By comparison, any newly-built flat must be at least 45m2, whereas a large hotel room is around 15m2.
It comes after plans to build a 40-storey student accommodation block at the premises, dubbed Portsmouth’s ‘Shard’ tower, were thrown out last year as members felt the design wasn’t in keeping with the area.
Councillors were concerned as developer Bouygues Development warned it would have been ‘unviable’ to include any social housing. Chris Hunt, the applicant, and Jon McDermott, the agent acting on behalf of the plans, were unavailable for comment.