PLANS to convert a newly-built retail unit in the centre of Highcliffe into flats have been rejected due to concerns about how close they were to bins.

Consultancy Pure Town Planning, representing the developers, said the application was brought forward due to a lack of demand from businesses.

But planners refused permission, criticising the design of the flats which would have seen one created less than two metres from a bin store.

In 2016, Christchurch council granted permission for the demolition of the previous building on the plot and for its replacement with a block of 10 flats and ground floor retail space.

The new building has now been completed but permission was being sought by a Mr and Mrs Woolley for the conversion of one of the vacant shop units into two more flats.

A statement submitted on their behalf by Pure Town Planning said in two years of marketing the retail units only two offers had been made, both of which were later withdrawn.

“There is little interest in retail units and alternative uses must be considered,” it said.

“A long term empty retail unit should be considered more harmful to the viability and appearance of Highcliffe centre than two residential units.”

However, BCP Council planning officer Kevin Chilvers refused the scheme, due to the loss of commercial facilities in the centre of Highcliffe and the “poor” amenity the flats’ occupiers would have.

“The outlook from the windows serving the rear flat would look out onto the cycle and bin stores at a distance of 1.6m,” his report said.

“This is considered to be wholly unacceptable resulting in unacceptably poor living conditions for occupiers.

“Neither unit has any form of natural light or ventilation to the proposed bedrooms and neither flat would have any private amenity space.”

His report added that the loss of retail floorspace was also against the council’s planning policies.