MORE than 100 homes can now be built on the disused police station site in Christchurch after planning permission was granted on Thursday (February 20).

Aster Homes’ application for the land between Barrack Road and Bargates had attracted strong opposition, including a petition signed almost 1,000 times.

However, it was approved by BCP Council’s planning committee on Thursday, despite councillors' concerns about the loss of public car parking.

The decision allows Aster to begin work on the redevelopment of the site – ending almost a decade of attempts to bring the land back into use.

Its plans enable 131 homes – 53 of which would be ‘affordable’ – to be built, alongside a 39-bed retirement facility, retail space, a science centre and an “ecological corridor”.

Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting, the developer’s agent, Rob Henderson of Savills, confirmed Aster would carry out most of the work itself. A specialist retirement developer will build the sheltered accommodation block.

Concerns were raised at Thursday's meeting about the impact of the loss of car parking at Pit Side and Bargates, concerns Christchurch Town Council had earlier raised in its objection.

Speaking on behalf of nearby businesses, Oonagh McKinney of Frettens Solicitors, warned the loss of long-term spaces could force businesses out of the town centre.

"There are already many empty shops on the high street and this could be a trend that continues," she said. "If parking becomes an issue it could make it more difficult to recruit staff.

"This may force our future plans to include looking outside of Christchurch town centre."

But after a long debate, councillors agreed to grant planning permission, praising the design and layout of the development.

Councillor Drew Mellor said it had been "very short-sighted" of the former Christchurch council to sell the Pit Side car park "without any plans" for reprovision of spaces but gave his backing to the application.

"We need new housing," he said. "I have sympathy with concerns but this site has been derelict for a long time and I am very much persuaded by the designs we have here."

Speaking after the meeting, Christchurch Town ward councillor Mike Cox welcomed the decision.

He said: “I’m delighted that the application has been approved – it’s been a long time in the making and provides 53 much-needed affordable homes.”