A SCHEME to build retirement flats on the site of the former Test Valley Borough Council offices in Romsey received a surprise setback this week when it was rejected by the authority’s own councillors.

Renaissance Retirement Ltd’s plans to build 54 apartments at Duttons Road were turned down by the southern area planning committee, which went against officers’ recommendations for approval.

Councillors claimed the three-storey building was not in keeping with the character of neighbouring Jubilee Road and would have an adverse impact on the amenities of a nearby bungalow which would stand in its shadow.

After Tuesday’s two-hour debate, councillors voted 11-5 against the application for 41 one-bedroom and 13 two-bedroom flats and associated parking.

Renaissance’s MD, Robert Taylor, said: “We didn’t expect the criticism that we got from the councillors. We had the full support of the planning officers and it came as a complete surprise when the committee ignored the advice they were given by the officers, especially the chief planning officer, Paul Jackson, who warned councillors their reasons for refusal were not valid.”

Mr Taylor confirmed that Renaissance would not finalise the purchase of the one-acre site until it received planning permission.

It became vacant in February last year when the council moved to its new premises at the former Romsey Magistrates Court in Church Street.

Renaissance is now making amendments to the scheme which attracted opposition from Romsey Town Council and people living nearby including Station Road.

Mr Taylor said: “I going to look at the scheme to see what points of concern raised by the councillors we can address, including the height of the building. We will look at this and make sure the height is the same or less than houses on Jubilee Road”

He pointed out that Renaissance would include a second lift in the amended plans, along with another communal room for the residents, who will be in their seventies and eighties.

Councillors Dorothy Baverstock and Karen Dunleavey both criticised the company for only having one lift and communal room during the debate.

Mr Taylor told the Advertiser that he had agreed a an extra lift and communal room should be added to the plans.

He also revealed that Renaissance would be installing soakaways on the site in a bid to ensure that rainwater went into the drains instead of the sewer system, as it does now.

During the debate, Romsey Abbey ward member and former town mayor, Ian Richards, said that homes in Jubilee Road had a low roof line and the proposed development would “impinge on the character” of the road.

Romsey Tadburn ward councillor, Mark Cooper, warned that if the proposed development went ahead, it would have a significant overbearing impact on the garden of the property, Maali, which is on the eastern boundary of the site. This was echoed by many committee members.

Ms Felton, who lives at Maali, told the committee that she believed the height of the proposed development was excessive and would block out her sunlight.