A building which has been branded a blight and an eyesore could survive under new planning rules.
New laws will soon mean that commercial sites in Worcester can be turned into homes or flats with exemptions granted only in exceptional circumstances.
But Worcester City Council wants commercial areas like those in Warndon and parts of Shrub Hill protected from being used for housing under permitted development rights which come into force in spring.
At a meeting of the city’s planning committee councillors expressed concern that if parts of Shrub Hill were turned into housing it could reduce opportunities for long-term redevelopment. Councillor Derek Prodger was concerned that the “wretched” seven-storey office block, Elgar House, near Shrub Hill railway station, could survive unless the area was given an exemption.
“It is the most hated building by the residents around the location. Here we are discussing how to keep it. The debate should be whether we remove it.
“It’s an absolute blight on the landscape. If it goes to residential now we don’t have the option of demolition.”
Paul O’Connor, development services manager, said the objective was to be rid of the building as part of a comprehensive redevelopment of the Shrub Hill area. “If we have a situation whereby it could be converted under permitted development from office to residential that means it perpetuates the life of the building and the chance for demolition goes.”
Warndon is also a key commercial area for the city which planning leaders want to be exempt because of sites like the Shire Business Park and firms like Worcester Bosch, Yamazuki Mazak, Npower, CyroService and the Royal Mail. This area supports 2,100 jobs – a third of the employment in the higher end sectors of business, administration and professional, scientific and technical services in Worcester.
Coun Andy Roberts, who represents Warndon Parish South, said such companies had made a big difference in Worcester.
“I really do welcome this, that we recognise that our wealth depends on that area of the city and we need to give it all the protection we can.”
The proposed exemption area would not cover the whole of the business parks and employment in this part of the city.
Worcester City Council’s submissions for exemption were handed in before the deadline on Friday, February 22.