AN £8m housing development on a key route into a Hampshire city will be a “landmark building”, the city's housing boss has said.
Despite advice from council officers to reject the plans, Winchester ouncillors approved 14 homes for the former Peugeot garage on Southgate Street.
Addressing the planning committee Ian Tait, portfolio holder for new homes delivery, said: “What a remarkable and significant site this is. The building at the front will be a landmark building.”
The 2,700sq metre site comprises several commercial premises, including a Peugeot garage and a furniture store.
It also includes a former 19th century coach house which will be converted into two family homes, while a new four-storey building will provide nine flats, alongside a newly-built terrace of three four-bedroom houses.
Planning officers argued that demolition of commercial buildings in favour of new homes would clash with council policy, which holds that the number of employment opportunities on such sites should be retained or increased.
But Cllr Barry Lipscomb, said: “This site cries out for development. It's one of the main arteries to the city, the gateway.
“We need to be prepared to move away from our policies on occasions when we need to and I think this is one of those occasions.”
Councillor Michael Read agreed: “With regard to the loss employment, it's minimal. The amount of staff they kept was probably no more than 20 or 25 at its peak,” he said.
Cllr Therese Evans backed the plans but was unhappy at the lack of affordable housing, although officers said developers were under no obligation because the plans - at just 14 homes - did not meet the number required to trigger the affordable homes requirement.
Cllr Evans also expressed sympathy for nearby homeowners.
She said: “I do feel sorry for the occupants of Southgate Villas but there's nothing to say that a commercial development wouldn't result in some loss of light.
"Inevitably if you live in a city and there is a big space behind you, it's going to be developed eventually, although that's no comfort to the occupants, I know.”
The meeting also heard that there had been inquiries about the site from businesses, including one from McDonalds and one from a convenience store, though they were held to be no more than tentative expressions of interest.
Developer Bargate Homes can now press ahead after councillors voted unanimously in favour.
Only Cllr Lipscomb abstained on the grounds that he could not “throw the occupants of the neighbouring properties to the wolves just because we think it's a commendable design.”
Work is likely to start in the summer with the first homes ready by late 2014.