All Members declared a personal interest in Planning Application 10/96354 New Gateway building at the Furlong, as the Town Council is one of the partners in the Gateway Project.
Cllr Heron stated that as a district councillor on the District Council's Planning Development Control Committee he reserved his right to vote at that Committee, but he wished to make a statement and then take no further part in the debate at this meeting.
Cllr Rippon-Swaine declared a personal interest as a County and District Councillor, and also as a member of the Planning Development Control Committee. He would be withholding his vote at the District Council Planning Meeting, and would therefore join the debate at this meeting.
Members were requested to reconsider the observation submitted by this Committee on 17th December 2010 regarding Planning Application 10/96354 - Visitor Information Centre, The Furlong:
New Gateway building delivering co-located public services and incorporating relocated public toilets; re-landscape of the area of demolished buildings; new access to the Furlong car park.
The observation was Permission (1): Members support the application, subject to (1) the Public Conveniences being divided so that 4 cubicles are male only and 4 cubicles female only (not unisex), with one disabled/family unit, and (2) the flat 2 storey roof being replaced with a pitched roof.
The Chairman said that he had been appointed by Policy & Finance Committee to fully support the Gateway application at the District Council's forthcoming Planning Development Control Committee on 12th January 2011, but the decision of the Planning, Town & Environment Committee gave a different view.
He therefore supported a review of the decision to ensure that whatever decision was reached was the full view of the Council.
Visuals were shown regarding how the fenestration could be improved at a later date, following further consultation with the Architect. New illustrations were circulated to emphasise how the expanse of flat roof, which was actually a parapet wall, would appear from various aspects. Viewed from the Furlong, it would not appear noticeable as 'flat'.
The Town Clerk reminded Members that the Committee was required to review its previous decision and reach a conclusion on the application on planning grounds.
Cllr Heron said that as Chairman of Policy & Finance Committee, he felt the application should be given full support, and he would therefore speak on the wider issues and context.
He said this was a unique opportunity in Ringwood for a Gateway Building and to replace the toilets and Visitor Information Centre. There was strong local feeling about the loss of the latter facility. He advised Members to consider whether this application was acceptable in planning terms, and not to take a personal view.
There was a lot of merit in the architecture and design. The issue over the badging of toilets could easily be resolved with stickers on the door, and the District Council would do this, even though the standard was for unisex toilets. The so-called flat roof was in fact a parapet reflecting older style of flat roofs. He warned that in these times when budgets were being cut, there was a risk that Ringwood could lose the whole project.
Cllr Cole asked for clarification on what was under discussion. The Chairman said it was the original application, excluding suggestions on improved fenestration.
Cllr Rippon-Swaine said the architects had been trying to achieve a roofline to blend in with the rest of the building. The pitched roof reflected that of the nearby Framptons Mill.
He emphasised again that the two-storey element in question did not have a flat roof but a parapet roof. Examples of the parapet roof could be seen in the old Habbins building and Bank House in the Market Place.
The architect had achieved the best possible design with the monies available.
Cllr Chard commented on numerous complaints regarding proposed unisex toilets. He wondered whether in the long term it would be cheaper to have a pitched roof.
Cllr Rippon-Swaine said a pitched roof would be more expensive, and in the long term there would be little difference in ongoing costs.
Cllr Woodifield said that the parapet roof was not sedum and could not be seen from above so it should not be an issue.
Cllr Wiseman questioned what exactly was being discussed.
The Town Clerk said that since the December meeting, the architects had considered the issues raised and said that it was not possible to have a pitched roof. The Committee was considering the original planning application.
The Chairman reiterated the risk of losing the chance of having this building at all.
Cllr Cole felt it would be better to lose it and to have only toilets as a separate building.
The Town Mayor said it was possible, that if this opportunity was rejected, there may not be another chance for 12-15 years. Cllr Cole said his decision had not changed; he did not like the building and feedback from residents was that they did not like it.
Cllr Heron said that funds for new toilets in a separate building in Ringwood could not guaranteed; a bid would have to be made and this could take four years.
The Chairman reminded Members the Ringwood Society had said it supported the concept of the Gateway and the essential facilities it would bring to Ringwood.
Cllr Wiseman emphasised that although Ringwood Society supported the concept of the Gateway, with the three councils working together, it did not like the building design.
Cllr Chard said he would prefer to see a pitched roof.
At the last meeting, the Student Advisor, Robert Goldman had objected to the flat roof and unisex toilets, so the young person's viewpoint should be noted.
Cllr O'Reilly warned of problems with maintenance of flat roofs.
Cllr B Terry said aesthetics were not as important as function to him. However, because of numerous objections to unisex toilets, he did feel strongly about this point. He reminded Members that Cllr Edward Heron had said he would allow one toilet only to be changed at the last meeting. He would like to be very sure that the equal amount of toilets for male/female would be guaranteed.
Cllr Woodifield proposed full support for the application subject to a condition to enable 4 toilets to be allocated for male only and 4 toilets for female only.
The Town Mayor seconded the proposal.
Those in favour were: Cllrs Steele, Chard, Ford, Woodifield, J Terry and B Terry.
Those against were Cllrs Cole and Wiseman.
RECOMMENDED: That the observation on Planning Application 10/96354 be re-submitted as Permission (1), subject to a condition to enable 4 toilets to be allocated for men and 4 toilets for women.
There being no further business, the Chairman closed the meeting at 6.45pm.