COUNCILLORS went against the recommendation of planning officers on Thursday, approving a seven-storey blocks of flats in Bournemouth town centre.

BCP Council’s planning committee voted by nine councillors to five to grant permission for Fortitudo Ltd to replace Fairview House in Hinton Road.

Its chairman, councillor Dave Kelsey, said it had been an “on balance decision” that had considered concerns raised in a report recommending the development be refused.

The plans proposed replacing the existing office building with a seven-storey block of 40 one- and two-bedroom flats.

The application had received more than 20 letters of support and no objections but, due to the report by planning officer Peter Burridge, it was brought before councillors for a decision.

He said the developer had provided “insufficient justification” for the loss of employment space and that the size of the proposed block was “excessive and harmful”.

“[The development] would result in adverse impacts inclusive of its harmful impact on the setting of designated and non-designated heritage assets and to the character and appearance of the area,” he said. “Harm has also been identified having regard to issues of residential amenity and through the unjustified loss of the existing employment use.”

He said this justified the refusal of planning permission, even though the council does not have the required five-year pipeline supply of new housing.

His view was echoed by some councillors at Thursday’s committee meeting with councillor Marion Le Poidevin raising concerns that some of the flats would only have views onto neighbouring buildings.

But others said the development would be beneficial, making better use of a town centre site, a position that was agreed by the majority.

“We’ve had lengthy discussions on this and it’s very much an ‘on balance’ decision,” chairman Cllr Kelsey said before the application was approved. “I think it could be a very good idea for the area, I think it could improve the area and I look forward to it being developed sooner rather than later.”