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The housing association aiming to build 59 units for older people on the old St Martins site in Queen Street, Gillingham, has put in its planning application.

And in its planning statement housing association Magna Housing admits that the existing St Martins House on the site – an iconic red brick building built as a show home for the town – could be pulled down at any time.

It says: ‘The site is not located in a conservation area and the buildings are not listed or otherwise protected. Accordingly, they can be demolished at any time without any further approval or consent.’

The current owners of the site, Dorset County Council – who have given Magna an option to buy the site at a knock-down price – asked planning authority North Dorset District Council if they needed permission to demolish the building and last month  NDDC said they did not.

The plans to demolish St Martins House to clear the way for the 59 units have caused huge controversy in the town, with local residents and councillors pledging to do all they can to fight the move and save the building, which was built at the end of the 19th century by Thomas Hudson.

A public meeting is being held at the town hall on Tuesday 16 October at 7pm.

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  1. Ken Smith
    25 October 2018 at 1:22 pm — Reply

    The interesting thing here is that one of the people who called the meeting knew about the possibility of demolition three years ago but appears to have done nothing until the council gave themselves permission to demolish the building. At a meeting of Gillingham Council Planning committee
    The committee were asked to support the History Society in its application to list the building. Without listing, they were told, the council could just demolish the building. The committee were told that the future of the building was being “reviewed” by DCC but no one did anything. The listing application was unsuccessful.
    In April of this year an objection was raised, by Magna housing, to the wording of the recently adopted Neighbourhood plan. The wording was changed in order to allow the Magna development.
    In the light of this, why is there all this outrage and accusation of secrecy?
    The other question is how much extra council tax are the protesters prepared to pay to keep the building while it quietly decays?

  2. Val Pothecary
    26 October 2018 at 10:16 pm — Reply

    I can only presume that Mr Smith is referring to me. Following the town council planning meeting in 2015 the Neighbourhood Plan group made sure that St Martins House was added to the list of non designated heritage assets, just in case the County Council were thinking of demolishing it. We thought it would give it protection. The modification of the Neighbourhood Plan in April was to strengthen our case, not to support a possible planning application from Magna Homes. Of course we all knew that for some years DCC have been considering what to do with the building. I remember suggesting that it could be a sixth form college to ease overcrowding at Gillingham School. There were, and still are, many possible uses for this building.

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