Homes will replace West Moors shop
A CHANGE of use of a travel agent's office in West Moors prompted lengthy discussion at Tuesday's meeting of the East Dorset District Council planning committee when there were objections to the loss of retail premises in the area.
The application proposed extension to the single storey building between the pub and the Co-op and conversion to residential use.
Committee members considered the policies applying to West Moors which included the concentration of retail facilities but also allowed employment, leisure, tourism and residential uses.
The proposal by Refined Travel Ltd for 169 Station Road, currently Seychelles Travel, was recommended for approval by officers, and planning agent Ian Speirs explained that since 98 per cent of the business of the company was on the internet, the premises were only an office and not big enough to support retail use.
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He pointed out that of the 29 shops and retail premises in West Moors, four of them were charity shops and five of them were empty, while the five vacant flats above shops had been filled immediately.
"Estate agents say they could not find anyone to occupy a retail shop or office," he said.
A spokesman for West Moors Parish Council said the centre of West Moors was very much defined and could not be extended. Although it was suggested that the premises were too small and did not look like a shop, the shop window was almost the same size as that of the butcher's next door, and 60 per cent of the population of the area were elderly and wanted to be able to walk to the shops.
Councillor David Shortell agreed, saying it would be difficult to increase retail opportunities if there were fewer retail premises available.
And planning officer Clare McCarthy said they had been given no evidence of marketing of the premises as a shop, which could be sought before making a decision.
But Councillor Robin Cook moved approval, saying a mixture of retail, commercial and residential was needed in the area, and Councillor Ian Monks added: "Town centres and larger village centres are changing, and policies are recognising that. This is a perfectly sound scheme to deliver three affordable units to rent or buy, and I am happy to second the proposal."
The application was approved by ten votes to one.