THE long fight against plans to build flats on the site of a Bournemouth convent has ended in disappointment for residents.

Despite the best efforts of residents and ward councillors, a government inspector has granted developer Dave Wells permission to build 62 properties on the site of St Boniface convent, Doveshill Crescent.

Mr Wells will now proceed with plans to build 26 one-bed houses and 36 flats, including at least 19 affordable homes, on the Redhill site and expects to complete the development within 18 months.

The government inspector was expected to take up to two months before announcing his decision but surprised everyone by making his mind up within a fortnight of the appeal hearing.

Cllr Roger West said he was "shocked and bitterly disappointed" by the decision and added: "I am amazed that this one man could have come to such an awful decision which will have a dramatic effect on my local residents.

"Cllr Sue Levell and I have been fighting against this possibility since 2005. The residents, fellow councillors and the planning board have all supported some development on this site but not blocks of flats and have all put forward good planning reasons against this development. We could not have done more."

Fellow Redhill and Northbourne councillor Peter Charon said: "I am severely disappointed, this is devastating for the residents.

"Residents and ward members put up a really good fight; we put our heart and soul into it and thought we had a very robust case.

"But ultimately a government appointed inspector has come in from outside and overruled all of us."

Mr Wells said he was "delighted" with the decision and insisted the houses and flats would be in keeping with the character of the area.

"Parents rightly want their children to have space to grow and gardens to play in and I hope that the families who move into these properties will become very much a part of the local community," he said.