A PRIVATE car park operator has launched an appeal to prevent enforcement action from the council against a Bournemouth town centre site.

Britannia Parking has been operating a car park at the former Punshon Memorial Church site for more than a year without planning permission.

A retrospective application for the formation of a temporary facility was turned down by Bournemouth Borough Council in July 2018.

Following this decision, the local authority issued an enforcement notice, which stated the car park use must stop, with the notice taking effect on September 11, 2018.

However, an appeal was lodged by Britannia Parking to the planning inspectorate.

A planning inspector will now review the case and take written representations from interested parties before reaching a verdict.

The appeal became valid with the Government department in the past couple of weeks and allowed the firm to continue to use the site since September without punishment.

A Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council spokesperson said: “This is a co-joined appeal which will deal with both the Enforcement Notice and the refused planning permission.

“The appeal will proceed by way of written representations.”

A spokesman for Britannia Parking said: “We can confirm that we currently have an appeal in progress to operate the site as a temporary car park and do not want to say any more at this stage while the appeal is pending.”

In the application for the temporary car park use, agent Ken Parke Planning Consultants said there are “continued issues of viability” and the owners have looked for temporary uses for the site “until markets improve”.

However, residents voiced concerns about the car park.

One said: “”The land is very dangerous and unstable, it’s very easy to slip over and I’m sure there will be burst tyres as there are stray nails lying over the ground. People using the car park have been exiting and driving the wrong way around the one-way system in Exeter Park Road, which is struggling to cope with the additional traffic alongside hotel traffic, deliveries, coaches etc.”

The site has been empty since the church was demolished in April 2015, but last year was occupied by homelessness protesters.

In February 2017, developer The Mast (Bournemouth) Ltd was granted outline planning permission for a scheme featuring 96 flats and two ground floor commercial units. The proposed building ranged in height between one and seven storeys.

However, in January this year, the developer submitted revised proposals which reduce the number of flats to 85. The two commercial units fronting Exeter Road are still included in the latest scheme. A decision has not been made on this application.