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Winchester civic chiefs reject plans for snooker hall
CONFUSION surrounded proposals for a Winchester development, with a councillor calling officer’s recommendations “cloud cuckoo land.”
Developers want to demolish the old snooker hall on St Cross Road to make way for nine homes, but officers recommended the plans be rejected because the applicants are no longer willing to provide a new community facility.
The city’s planning committee came close to deferring the item, after councillors expressed concern at a letter from the developers suggested “maladministration” by the council.
Mervin McFarland, an agent acting on behalf of the applicant, Whyteleaf Investment Limited, wrote: “The council should be mindful that the delay in bringing this application to committee may well amount to maladministration causing significant injustice to the applicant.”
Although some members wanted more time to consider the letter, which had been received only 24 hours prior, an impromptu vote saw them agree to press ahead.
Planning officials also recommended that the developers contribute £421,600 towards affordable housing - a figure scoffed at by Cllr Ian Tait, portfolio holder for new homes delivery.
He said: “I would love to have that much for affordable housing but this is cloud cuckoo land. We’re not going to get it. Our policy needs to be transparent and coherent or we’re never going to get development here.”
Talking on behalf of his client, Mr McFarland said: “£420,000 is not the right amount of affordable housing contribution. My client is willing to make a contribution of £36,000.”
The meeting heard that Whyteleaf Investment had withdrawn its original plan to provide a community facility where the snooker hall currently sits as it would be impossible to secure funding in advance for it, with Mr McFarland calling it a “potential white elephant.”
Cllr Jane Rutter said: “It’s unfortunate that there’s been a lack of communication between the applicant and officers and I think we should try harder. I cannot believe the applicant cannot find a tenant for the commercial site. It’s a sustainable site.”
Cllr Eileen Berry told the committee: “I have felt uncomfortable about this from the beginning. There’s something wrong with this application. The presentation was not very good. I’m going with the officer’s recommendations not because I’m happy with the presentation but because I want the applicant to go back and really have a dialogue with the officers.
Councillors voted unanimously to accept the officers recommendations that planning permission be refused.