Inquiry into future of former council offices site in Thornbury set to open

March 28 2017
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A FOUR-day inquiry into the proposed redevelopment of the former council offices site in Castle Street, Thornbury, will start at the end of April.

A FOUR-day inquiry into the proposed redevelopment of the former council offices site in Castle Street, Thornbury, will start at the end of April.

Churchill Retirement Living wants to knock down the building, which used to be the headquarters of South Gloucestershire Council, and put 57 sheltered flats and five cottages for the elderly in its place.

But the site is prominent and sensitive, being within the town’s conservation area and close to a number of listed buildings.

Complaints were made that the design of the scheme was not suitable for such a setting.

Now an inspector appointed by the Secretary of State will hear evidence at the hearing before determining the application.

The inquiry process began when Churchill Retirement Living lodged an appeal against the non-determination of its application by the council’s planners.

At a subsequent meeting, planning committee members decided they would have refused the scheme had they been in a position to determine it.

They said the proposal failed to reach the highest possible standards of site planning and design and would result in “significant and demonstrable” harm that outweighed the benefits of the proposal.

The planning inquiry will open in Poole Court, Yate, at 10am on Tuesday, April 25.

Documents submitted for the hearing said there were several points at issue, including whether the proposal “respects the character and appearance of Castle Street within the Thornbury conservation area” and “preserves or enhances the setting of the nearby heritage assets”.

The inspector will also decide if the size, appearance and overall design of the flats and cottages is appropriate for the location.

The existing offices were originally used by the former Northavon District Council, then the South Gloucestershire authority until it decided to cut the number of offices it occupied.

A marketing exercise to find an alternative office use for the building was unsuccessful due to a lack of interest.

The inquiry will hear there was little appetite for commercial redevelopment of the site, with the sale to Churchill going ahead in 2015.