AN appeal to redevelop a rundown block of flats on a gateway town street has won support from town councillors.
The derelict Riverview Flats in Wye Street, Ross-on-Wye, have been unoccupied for five years, and standing opposite the boarded-up Riverside Inn, form an unsightly entrance to the town beside the bandstand and river walk.
Owner Denver Rollings wants to redevelop the flats to make six two-bedroomed apartments on three storeys, and has appealed to the planning inspector after Herefordshire Council rejected the plan.
Ross-on-Wye Town Council says it broadly supports his appeal, having spoken in favour of the scheme during the planning process last year.
And it has told the planning inspector: "The long-term dereliction of the current site and its prominence in an important gateway to the town and its conservation area means that the town council are keen to see this site developed."
Town councillors say they will be "fully supportive" of the application if several "cosmetic alterations" can be incorporated.
They say the "dominant dark grey" colour proposed is "out of keeping" with the area, while "stone cladding" needs specifying to be "local stone".
They have also called for buff, not white, render, local red or buff stone and altered fenestration.
"The town council supports the development of housing in the town centre that respects local character, residential amenity and highway safety," say members.
As previously reported, Mr Rollings is demanding full costs from Herefordshire Council as part of his appeal.
A report to the inspector accuses council planners of "unreasonable behaviour", claiming that design proposals "agreed" with one council heritage officer were later opposed by another.
It says the change from backing at the pre-application stage to opposition "appears to have stemmed purely from a change in personnel".
"The conservation officer’s suggestions were taken onboard and the submitted scheme reflects the advice received from the council," adds the report.
"Given the positive pre-application advice and general support for the scheme, the appellant had a justifiable expectation that the application would be approved."
It adds that the later objection was to design details "specifically requested by the previous heritage officer".
"It is the appellant’s case that the sudden change in position without any reasonable justification other than a difference in professional opinion between two conservation officers, amounts to unreasonable behaviour," it continues.
The scheme was turned down on the grounds of harm to the conservation area, nearby historic buildings and the street scene.
But the appeal to the inspector to overturn the decision quotes the council planning officer as originally saying: "The existing buildings on site are clearly detrimental to the character and appearance of the street-scene and the site has constraints.
"From a design and heritage assessment the proposal is an important upgrade to this important sensitive area.
"Improving the appearance of this low-quality building is considered vital and again in principle supported. This proposal would help enhance the setting of adjoining listed buildings."
The appeal includes an independent heritage appraisal which says "the proposal positively responds to the historic context, representing a marked improvement on the existing building".
A residents’ group has previously told planners the rundown building makes the tourist and leisure area beside the bandstand in the Caroline Symonds Gardens, Long Acre riverside walk and canoe launch site look ’degrading’.
It’s not the only dilapidated building on Wye Street, either, standing opposite the long-closed Riverside Inn, which has fallen into a state of disrepair after an application to turn it into a home was turned down in 2016.