At the Powys County Council Planning committee meeting on Thursday councillors debated a planning application by Nigel Bryant who wanted to demolish the current building on Gas Street, replacing it with a new one, which would provide ground floor retail space and six flats above it.
The application received much criticism from residents with 124 objections raising a number of issues including the impact on nearby historic buildings and the conservation area.
But 57 letters of support were also received for the proposal, which is the final one of four previous drafts.
Senior planning officer, Kate Bowen said: “The development would harm the appearance of the Newtown Conservation Area and the settings of the identified listed buildings.”
Mrs Bowen advised councillors to refuse the proposal.
Councillor Elwyn Vaughan said: “This is a prime development opportunity site, and it is to be welcomed that someone has taken an interest to that effect.
“However, it is in a conservation area.
“There are a number of listed buildings some of them directly opposite, and the wider consideration of the design, impact and setting of the proposal has to be carefully considered.
“Looking at the report there has been extensive communication between the built heritage officer and the applicant or agent and yet there are key things that have not been resolved or agreed.
“That is a matter of intense frustration and I feel this application should never be in front of us today.”
In the report built heritage officer, Dr Sam Johnson explained that he had been asked to comment on the application four times and that: “The continual and significant amendment of a live planning application is not the correct way to design development.”
Councillor Heulwen Hulme picked up on Dr Johnson’s comments.
She said: “It’s alarming to read that statement. Standards must be raised.”
She urged the council’s planning professional lead officer Peter Morris to address the issue with agents.
Mr Morris said: “We’re trying our best to work with agents to seek more front-loaded application to make sure what comes in initially is of a higher standard.”
He reminded the committee that they needed to decide the application that “is in front of them” and not to “focus on the process.”
As the debate progressed some councillors warmed to the scheme.
Councillor Adrian Jones said: “I’m in favour of this application, the design is attractive in a modern way but still in keeping with Newtown.
“I don’t think it would have an impact on the skyline.”
Councillor Gareth Pugh asked Dr Johnson if he would still object to the proposal had the applicant/agent changed the plans as to what he had advised them to do.
Dr Johnson said: “If the height reduced I would have accepted it.”
This saw a proposal from Councillor Hulme to postpone deciding the scheme to a future meeting and allow the applicant “to take on board” what had been said.
Councillor Adrian Jones seconded this.
This proposal to defer the application was voted on first, seven councillors voted in favour and 12 against.
The motion was lost and councillors went on to vote on the officer’s recommendation to refuse the application.
This received 17 votes of support and two against.