COUNCILLORS blasted proposals to install 76 flats in Bournemouth’s Beales store as “shabby” and “appalling” before unanimously rejecting the application yesterday.

The decision ends months of uncertainty for staff at the 135-year-old town centre outlet, which had been subjected to the plans by landlords AEW UK Core Property Fund against the wishes of Beales’ owners.

Planning consultant Ian Johnson, who was representing the applicant, argued that allowing the change of use would protect Beales in the long-term, albeit in a smaller retail space, following widely reported financial problems.

He said that the majority of the 7,500 objections had been “tick-boxed” and claimed council officers’ had been “hoodwinked” into recommending the scheme for refusal.

Mr Johnson also defended the proposal for the apartment block to have no parking spaces on the basis that similar provisions had been allowed nearby.

But planning board chairman Cllr David Kelsey told his fellow members to disregard the financial aspects of Mr Johnson’s representation.

“It is pretty disappointing for an applicant to come in, put their planning application forward and talk only about the financial situation of a store in the town,” he said.

Cllr Kelsey said the size of the rooms being offered in the 65 one-bedrooms flats and 11 studios was “appalling” and added: “We don’t just want people who want to live in puny one-bedroom flats or studio apartments.

“We are not that desperately short of our housing requirements that we need to just accept any shabby scheme that comes along to be approved.

“People want proper housing, they want family housing and wherever possible this council will retain the ability to provide that.”

And ward councillor Bob Chapman spoke of the store’s history and survival after being rebuilt in the 1950s following a World War II bombing raid.

“It is part of Bournemouth’s heritage and will always be a major player in the town’s retail scene,” he added.

The move to refuse the application was made by Cllr Phil Stanley-Watts and seconded by Cllr Pat Oakley.