PLANS to demolish a century-old church hall have been dubbed “shameful” by Bournemouth Civic Society.

Bournemouth council last week granted planning permission for the demolition of St Peter’s Hall in Hinton Road and its replacement with a seven-storey block of student flats with a ground floor cafe.

The heritage value of the building is not considered in the application as, according to the planning report, “the principle of the demolition of the existing building has previously been allowed on appeal”.

However the civic society says this decision is not binding and is based on an out-of-date assessment of the building’s value.

“This is one of the more shameful decisions by the council,” said society member and historic buildings surveyor James Weir.

“Historic buildings are few and far between in this town and have to be protected to save some of the character of the early town.”

The council’s decision was based on a 2010 judgement by the planning inspector that the hall had a negative impact on the Old Christchurch Road Conservation Area “in its current much altered form”.

However, Mr Weir said the building’s facade had been obscured by black coverings when it was assessed by the inspector, concealing how well-preserved its original features are.

Society chairman Ken Mantock said: “We are very disappointed, this is clearly a very historic and interesting building which has been through quite a rollercoaster of recent planning applications.

“We feel the proposed scheme is too big for the site. The existing building could have been renovated, extended and converted rather than flattened.”

The hall was built in 1908 by local architects HE Hawker, who also built the Westbourne Arcade and contributed to numerous other structures around Bournemouth including St Peter’s itself. It has lain empty for some time and was last occupied by a nightclub.

Several applications have sought to alter or demolish the building to make way for student housing, with mixed success.

Bournemouth council declined to comment.