Plans for 24 new flats in an empty city centre shop were described as a “Victorian slum” at a City Council planning meeting today.

Councillors voted unanimously to refuse an application to convert the building in Worcester's St Martin's Quarter, left empty since the closure of Poundstretcher, into a mix of one-and-two-bed flats.

Several members voiced concerns over the exclusion of a roof garden or outdoor space in the plan, citing the lack of amenities for prospective tenants.  

Speaking during the meeting, Councillor Alan Amos said: “I’ve always said every kid in Worcester should have a fair and equal start in life.

“As such, we simply cannot facilitate the building of future Victorian slums.

“Children would be brought up in a hostile environment with a complete lack of space for amenities.

“These proposed flats are nothing more than rabbit hutches which will become future slums.

“There is a need for city centre accommodation, but it must be decent accommodation, not just as much as we can cram in.”

The city's Poundstretcher store closed in September last year after the company went into administration.

Most of the building - Poundstretcher and Ladbrokes aside - has been empty for more than a decade and has failed to attract any interest.

This is the second time proposals from Cedar Worcester have been put before the committee.

Just last month, the application was rejected by councillors who voiced concerns about the size of the flats and a potential loss of retail space.

Cedar Worcester argue the rise in people working from home due to Covid, as well as the drop in footfall and increase in online shopping over a number of years, has made the units unattractive to potential retail tenants.

However, Councillor Patricia Agar said this was no excuse to “cram in” as many flats as possible into a busy public area.

“Worcester is not London or Tokyo, there is no need to cram in all these flats in a busy area of the city,” she said.

“This was described in the proposal as a semi-public area – this is very much a public area.

“There are huge crowds of people regularly walking past the ground floor by ASDA.”

Councillor Mel Allcott added: “If lockdown taught us anything, it is the value of people having an open space.”

The meeting of the committee was held at the Guildhall on Thursday, November 25 at 1.30pm.