A DECISION is expected next week on the possible conversion of a former military hospital in Dorchester into five apartments.
Developers George Crook and Sons say the planning proposal is the best way to preserve the building in the city’s Grove industrial area.
The site has been empty for several years after it was last used as offices for a coach travel company in the 1990s and has since been marketed for employment purposes, without success.
It is one of the few buildings to have remained intact since the days of the Maumbury Barracks, which was originally part of the Royal Horse Artillery Barracks built in 1799. The hospital served soldiers and their families until ‘in the middle of the 20th century.
The site was also used as part of the prisoner of war camp at Dorchester – which at its peak numbered 4,500 men. Many of the buildings that had formed the barracks were sold to Royal Mail and Dorset County Council in the early 1960s.
The Old Military Hospital is one of two Grade II listed buildings in the commercial realm, the other being the Old Riding School which is now used by a carpet company and a cleaning company.
Mr. Crook’s company says changes to the building’s exterior appearance would be minimal to protect its historic character.
The construction work would also restore some period features such as the fireplace mantels, “to create homes with a unique character,” the request said.
Dorchester city councilors have expressed reservations about the project, with some saying the site, in an industrial estate, is unsuitable for houses. Others say the entire site should be kept for employment purposes.
Dorset Council planning officers admit that there are a range of views on using the site for housing, suggesting that next week’s planning committee for the area, on November 30, agree to the changes: “There is a certain degree of conflict with the policies of the development plan with respect to the protection of key job sites and the protection of residential amenities but, overall, considered in relation to the development plan. as a whole it is considered to be broadly in line with this plan and the proposal should be supported with conditions.
The proposals, which have been amended from the first proposal, allow one 1-bed apartment and two 2-bed apartments on the ground floor and one 2-bed apartment and one 3-bed apartment on the first floor. The initial request, in March 2019, requested six apartments on the site.