Councillors Face ‘Dilemma’ Over Dilapidated Buildings

st martins lowertownCouncillors faced a tricky decision this week when they had to choose between approving a new holiday let on St Martin’s or allowing a historic building to fall further into disrepair.

Keith and Dawn Bradford want to convert an old packing shed and attached greenhouse at Lower Town into a high-spec, three-bedroom self-catering property, close to their existing holiday lets.

The buildings are in a poor state – the granite walls of the shed are subsiding and the roof of the greenhouse has collapsed.

They want to knock them down and build a similar-shaped structure, with a raised roofline and new windows.

But Planning Officer Lisa Walton said that would result in the loss of buildings linked to St Martin’s historic flower industry.

And she said it wouldn’t fit with the Council’s Local Plan, which says new accommodation can only be built if it’s on an existing farm or is related to diversification of the economy.

Neighbours Rob and Fay Davis, who live opposite, wrote to say it was far too close to their property, the listed building Ashvale House, and was not a sensitive conversion of the existing sheds.

The Davis’ said seven similar conversions had taken place on the islands over the past 20 years and none had resulted in an increased height or changes to the external appearance.

And they said the buildings are in such a poor state because the owners haven’t maintained them sufficiently.

Ben and Caroline Gillett from St Martin’s campsite said it would be a shame to lose “yet another historic glass house from the island.”

Councillors who attended a recent site visit expressed concerns about a doorway leading directly onto the road.

Cllr Colin Daly said a child would be “wiped out” if they ran out from the property, although Cllr Steve Sims said there were at least eight homes on St Mary’s with a similar design and he’d never heard of any accidents.

Cllr Marian Bennett described the application as “a dilemma.”

Marian said the buildings are falling into disrepair and will soon be “very unsightly.”

But she said it would be “draconian” to demand their refurbishment and upkeep without an income to support that.

“It’s expensive to do that work, especially on the off-islands,” said Marian.

Cllr Daly echoed that view. He said the buildings were no longer viable, but he couldn’t think of another economic use for them.

In the end, councillors voted to reject the proposal.

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