The mayor of Gillingham, Barry Von Clemens, has said that the development to provide 60 ‘extra care’ homes to replace the now-demolished St Martins House in Queen Street will be the ‘shame of the town’.
The mayor’s comments came as members of the town’s planning committee discussed an amended plan for the development by Magna Housing Association at a meeting on Monday 2 December.
The amended plans are very similar to those already backed by the town council, with additional chimneys and a change in direction of the way the roofs will slope to fit in with neighbouring buildings.
Councillor Von Clemens, who abstained when councillors first backed the plans and did so again last Monday, said: ‘I do not believe that this development is right for Gillingham so I could not vote even for an amendment.
‘It’s awful. No matter if you put a couple of fake chimneys on it and if you re-angle the roof, it really is going to be the shame of this town when it goes up.’
Another councillor commented that an aerial view of the drawings make it look like ‘cell block H’
However, deputy mayor Paul Harris said that given that the town council had already backed the plans, and that the amendments had been carried out by the applicants to meet concerns expressed by the local Conservation Officer, they should back it.
‘Logic dictates that we support it,’ he told fellow councillors.
The planning committee, which voted 4-2 to back the changes, was also told that the heritage body Historic England had expressed its doubts about the supposed scheme.
In a letter to the planning authority, Dorset Council, the organisation described the quality of the design as ‘disappointing’.
It added: ‘We consider [it] will be an overbearing, unrelenting and excessively assertive structure of incongruous character in this prominent and sensitive location. We maintain that the construction of this new building, which neither responds to nor reinforces local character and distinctiveness, would result in unjustified harm to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area …”
Demolition of the 19th century St Martins House – built as a show house by local entrepreneur Thomas Hudson – has now been completed and the local landmark has now vanished from the town’s street scene.
The work has been overseen by the site’s existing owners. Dorset Council. The new owners are to be Magna Housing Association who are planning to build 60 what are called ‘extra care’ residential homes for older people.