DEVELOPERS have won a long battle to transform the site of an historic cliff-top cafe into a two-and-a-half-storey block of flats.

Harrison Developments appealed against a decision by Bournemouth planners to refuse permission for the Point House Cafe in Southbourne to be bulldozed and transformed into seven self-contained apartments with basement parking.

The Harbour Road cafe – a favourite haunt for many, including Bournemouth’s Alex James from ’90s chart-toppers Blur – was the subject of a third appeal hearing on June 8.

Protestors have tirelessly fought against the plans to demolish the cafe and develop the site, claiming it would “destroy that bit of coastline”.

The borough’s head of tourism Mark Smith also opposed the development claiming it would “damage the appeal of Bournemouth’s tourism”.

Protestors won support from Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood, who described the plans as “totally inappropriate for the seafront”.

After dismissing one of two unsuccessful former appeals, on the grounds that the development “would harm the character and appearance of the surrounding area”, inspector Richard Marshall allowed an appeal against a failure to give notice, within the prescribed period, of a decision on the planning permission.

The inspector described the appeal site as “a fairly isolated cliff-top position” adding: “The building that would be demolished is of no great architectural merit,” “out of keeping with its attractive coastal location” and “an unwelcome intrusion in the views towards the sea.”

He added: “It appears to have been extended over time and there are some notably unsympathetic single-storey extensions.

“Far from detracting from the character and appearance of the site, the proposed development would be an improvement.”

Planning board vice-chairman Cllr Ron Whittaker told the Daily Echo: “I am taken aback by this approval.

“I cannot believe the inspector has approved these plans for a more bulky development closer to the cliff edge than the existing building.

“This section of the cliff-top should be part of our tourism core area which would give it greater protection when we are fighting appeals.”