A REFURBISHMENT and redevelopment project for Blandford's Corn Exchange, Town Hall and council offices, which is expected to cost as much as £5million, has been granted planning permission by North Dorset District Council.
The application to replace the community rooms in Church Lane with a four-storey complex and remodel the Corn Exchange and Town Hall in the Market Place, to which it is linked, attracted a host of objections from consultees including English Heritage, the Georgian Group and Victorian Society, the Council for British Archaeology and the Theatres Trust on grounds of treatment of the existing building and design of the new.
But it was recommended for approval by officers at North Dorset District Council, who said that "taken as a pair of proposals to upgrade the existing Corn Exchange and provide more useable spaces, it is considered that they provide sufficient public benefits to outweigh the loss or disturbance of existing features within the older building".
They said it would provide improved civic office and meeting spaces, and ensure a versatile and viable future for both civic and cultural elements of the whole.
"As such, both are considered to make a positive contribution to the local character and distinctiveness of the town conservation area, recognised for its strong cohesive and relatively unique Georgian market town character."
Councillor David Milsted, one of two councillors to abstain from the vote, said: "I fully support the proposals for the Corn Exchange, old court and Shambles, but the new 'town hall' is disappointing, and looks like Barclays Bank in Haywards Heath, with a couple of barns dropped on top.
"I feel a great opportunity has been lost to provide Blandford with a high quality 21st century building to complement those of the 18th and 19th centuries."