AN application to build up to 35 homes on the site of the former coastguard training centre in Christchurch has been refused.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) is relocating its training operations to a new centre near Fareham in Hampshire, and to fund the move it plans to develop housing on the old site at Steamer Point, Friar’s Cliff.

Despite its application for recognition of the principle of residential development on the site being supported by planning officers, Christchurch councillors voted to refuse permission at a planning committee meeting.

Several argued that although the wording stipulated ‘up to 35’ homes, a maximum figure derived from the council’s own strategic housing assessment, this amount would be inappropriate for the site and they were unwilling to allow for that possibility.

“Why allow it while saying that around 20 homes would be more appropriate in practice,” said ward councillor Claire Bath.

“If they came back with a lower number I would have a different opinion.”

County councillor Lesley Dedman said she felt the case for any residential development of the site had not been made.

Addressing the meeting, Chris White of residents’ group the Friar’s Cliff Action Committee said: “In our opinion the application should be rejected unless the reference ‘up to 35’ is removed. A high proportion of the objections highlighted this as a particular concern.”

Mayor John Lofts also expressed concern that the development might impinge on the adjacent nature reserve. The meeting heard that the new development would not include any affordable housing, and in compensation the applicant had agreed to donate £1.45million to fund social housing projects elsewhere in the borough.