CONTROVERSIAL plans for a new “digital exchange” in Talbot Village have been approved.

Despite opposition from some councillors, BCP Council’s planning committee gave its backing to the new server unit which will provide faster broadband to nearby universities and businesses.

The decision has been welcomed by Talbot Village Trust which said the new facility would bring “great benefit” to the area.

It submitted its application for the conversion of a “dilapidated” barn building off Purchase Road in February after a previous scheme was refused permission.

The trust said the new exchange would facilitate faster internet connections for people living and working in the area.

But it attracted strong opposition, including from councillors representing the ward, prompting it to be considered by the council’s planning committee at the end of last month.

Councillor Karen Rampton said the proposals was a “sham”.

“This is a blatant attempt again to bulldoze a path through the clear and unambiguous policy of the Poole local plan,” she said.

Concerns were raised that the facility marked the start of development of the land earmarked for a new “digital village” and therefore required the provision of a new “heathland support area”.

But in a report, council planning officer Monika Kwiatkowska said this was not the case as it would create no new jobs and not trigger the clause.

Speaking at the meeting, planning manager Doug Evans said it “tiptoed around the boundaries” of what would even require planning permission.

“Taken in the whole scheme of things, it’s a small, unremarkable building that will be put to slightly different use,” he said.

“Outwardly it would not appear very different, there will be very little difference in its impact and the consequences are very slight.”

His position was backed by the committee which voted to approve the application by nine votes to two.

Councillor Toby Johnson said the scale of the development was “minimal” and that as the land had been earmarked for a technological focus, the facility should be supported.

Speaking after the meeting, trust trustee James Gibson Fleming said the new facility would bring “great benefit” to the region.

“The Covid-19 crisis has underscored the huge social and economic benefits we all get from reliable digital infrastructure, so helping to enable even better and faster connectivity is something that Talbot Village Trust is very happy to be able to provide to the local area,” he said.

“We are pleased that the planning committee recognised the great benefit that this modest, unobtrusive digital exchange will deliver for those in the BCP region, businesses and our universities.

“The trust recognises the intense local interest in its plans and Talbot Heath, heathland support and the best public realm remains at the heart of all its objectives.”