CONTROVERSIAL plans to replace the Bournemouth Centre for Community Arts building with affordable homes have won approval, following a heated two-hour council chamber debate.

The former school, between Haviland Road and Gladstone Road in Boscombe, has been empty since Bournemouth council said it was too expensive to repair in 2007.

Despite impassioned pleas from local residents, business and performing arts representatives and the Friends of the BCCA, the Bournemouth 2026 Partnership was granted permission to bulldoze the existing buildings, with the exception of the Grade II listed school.

The school hall will be refurbished to provide an arts and culture hub with an orchard, allotments and a car park also planned.

Council planning officers recommended that the scheme be approved, despite 938 objections being sent to the Town Hall.

In a deputation to the council’s planning board, Bournemouth 2026 chairman Bob Boulton described the arts and culture hub as a “catalyst for regeneration.”

But local resident Gary Palmer said: “The BCCA belongs to the people of Bournemouth; a positive community spirit is key to solving Boscombe’s problems.”

Linda Ni’Man from the Friends of BCCA, inset, warned: “This is our last chance, when it’s gone, it’s gone and Boscombe goes down the pan with it.”

Landlord Ralph Grundy said: “I don’t believe that the demolition of the BCCA and subsequent building of 11 small property units will aid the regeneration of Boscombe.”

Planning officer Barry Carse stressed that the listed building would be saved, adding: “This is a scheme worthy of support.”

Cllr Roger West’s move to refuse the application was seconded by Cllr Linda Bailey but failed to win support.

A subsequent move by Cllr Mike Greene, seconded by Cllr Lynda Price, to grant approval was carried by five votes to two.