BOURNEMOUTH council has refused permission for 24 flats intended for residents struggling with homelessness or other issues.

Bournemouth Churches Housing Association (BCHA) had applied to demolish St Swithun's House, the Victorian villa housing its offices at the corner of Christchurch Road and Gervis Road.

The housing association wanted to build a block with new offices below and 24 flats above, mainly a mix of one beds and studios.

In an email to the council the association said the flats would provide "a stepping stone" for its tenants seeking greater independence.

"A key part of BCHA’s work is the provision of supported housing which provides specialist accommodation with support for various groups including those moving out of homelessness, young people, victims of domestic violence and others," the association said.

"Those schemes provide both a safe and secure home and direct support that they need. As residents overcome and manage their particular issues, their need to be in supported housing reduces, enabling them to live independently in general needs accommodation.

"The proposed building is intended to cater primarily for those residents, providing transitional accommodation for individuals leaving supported housing."

However a report by planning officer Colin Tebb states that only two of the proposed flats meet national minimum space standards, leaving the others with "poor living conditions".

BCHA claims the residents will not have cars, and if they did "they would be in a position to be rehoused", and has not included any parking for the flats. But the council says 33 spaces are required for the block.

Also council planners ruled that the proposed block was too bulky and tall for the "gateway" to the East Cliff Conservation Area.

An objection was submitted by major East Cliff landowner the Meyrick Estate on the grounds of "increased noise and other disruption", although the new block was backed by Bournemouth Civic Society.