CONCERNS have been raised over the impact a major Bournemouth town centre development would have on the setting of the town’s historic buildings if plans are approved.

The proposed scheme at the Winter Gardens site is the largest in the town’s history and would see a combined residential, leisure and retail development with restaurants and a new public realm.

The plans are being led by the Bournemouth Development Company, a partnership between Bournemouth council and Morgan Sindall Investments.

Historic England has raised concerns about the £150m development, saying one of the proposed buildings at the junction of Exeter Road and Priory Road would impair the view across the Lower Gardens, blocking the spire of the Grade I listed St Peter’s Church.

Simon Hickman, planning inspector for Historic England, said: “In the context of these views, the proposed tall building will also degrade the visual primacy in the townscape of the Grade II listed Royal Exeter Hotel, the oldest building in Bournemouth.”

He added that some modern developments had “not been kind to Bournemouth” and the public realm around the town centre was “of variable quality”.

“Nevertheless, the origins of the town as a product of the Victorian Picturesque movement remain legible and apparent,” he said.

The plans envisage the complete transformation of the 1.98 hectare (4.89 acre) site, which has been used as a car park since the demolition of the concert hall in 2006, following its closure four years earlier.

The plans include 352 one, two and three-bed apartments and penthouses. Most will have balconies or terraces with views of the sea, coastline and conurbation. The residences are arranged across four multi-storey buildings of varying heights.

Up to five units for restaurants are proposed along Exeter Road. A new food store is also planned.

Referring to the view from Priory Road, Mr Hickman said he questioned “the rationale for positioning a 15-storey building on the edge of the site adjacent to the BIC roundabout.

“This will severely curtail the view to the detriment of the setting of the listing buildings and the character of the West Cliff and Poole Hill Conservation Area.”

He added: “Historic England is aware of the importance of this project to your authority, and the contribution that it should make to the wider regeneration of the town. It is therefore vital to ensure that this development does not sully the distinctive character that makes Bournemouth such an attractive urban environment in the first place.”

He suggested reducing the height of that building could preserve the setting of the church and hotel.