PLANS to build as many as 167 homes on a Christchurch factory site have been approved by BCP Council.

Despite concerns that the REIDsteel site would provide no ‘affordable’ homes, members of the council’s planning committee approved the scheme when they met on Thursday (January 9).

The firm’s managing director, Simon Boyd, welcomed the decision and said they would now sell the site as part of its relocation to a purpose-built headquarters at Bournemouth Airport.

The outline application was submitted at the beginning of 2019 and proposed clearing its Fairmile Road site to allow “up to” 167 houses and flats to be built.

The sale of the site to a developer would help fund the construction of its new “state-of-the-art” facility at Bournemouth Airport.

Despite the council’s target for 35 per cent of homes in larger developments to be ‘affordable’, it said it was “financially unviable” to provide any in this case due to the cost of decontaminating the land.

Dozens of people also wrote in objection to the scheme.

Councillors were urged to approve the application when they met on Thursday with planning officer Sophie Mawdsley saying its affordable housing contribution would be reviewed.

“Despite the lack of a contribution [to affordable housing], it will make a valuable contribution to housing supply,” she said.

The application was opposed by four councillors, including councillors Peter Hall and Ann Stribley.

They put forward a move to refuse permission saying its approval without any affordable housing could set a “dangerous precedent”.

“I believe the viability constraints here are due to the financial ambitions of the business and the return they want from selling the site,” Cllr Stribley said. “It’s totally unacceptable to me to hear the affordable housing can’t go there.”

Cllr Hall, who represents the Christchurch Town ward, said: “I’m very concerned about this, REIDsteel is a brilliant firm but this does worry me.

“Our schools and doctors’ surgeries are full and there is no financial contribution here towards them.”

But their proposal to refuse permission was outvoted four to 11 before a proposal to grant planning permission was voted through.

Speaking after the meeting, REIDsteel managing director Simon Boyd said the decision was “fantastic” for the future of the company.

“This is a great start to 2020,” he said. “It now unlocks all the other steps that we need to go through in our move to the airport which is about the future of our business.

“It’s very disappointing to see councillor Peter Hall voting to refuse it when REIDsteel is probably the biggest employer in Christchurch and clearly he didn’t understand what’s behind this – it’s about the future of a company which has done much for the local community.”

He said they would now be putting the site on the market with “several developers” interested in taking on the development.

The sale of the site is expected to generate "at most" about half of the cost of the firm’s new facility at Bournemouth Airport.

Mr Boyd said he expected a decision on the planning application for this to be made in the next couple of months.