A CONTROVERSIAL planning application from a prominent West Cumbrian businessman has been approved for Cockermouth, despite concerns raised by residents.

At a meeting in Allerdale House, plans were voted on for the Former Fire Headquarters, Station Road, Cockermouth to be converted into an apartment block by Cumbria businessman Bill Dobie.

The company bought the former county fire headquarters and land in 2015, paying around £2million for the 3.8-acre site. It later went on to turn the derelict building into apartments.

In May, Dobies Cumbria Properties Ltd applied to Cumberland Council for full planning permission to build a further 10 apartments and six houses on the site.

But the plans proved controversial, with more than 300 people making objections to the council during the consultation period of the application.

Concerns were raised around the scale and density of the development on what members of the community have described as a ‘peaceful’ and biodiverse area of the town.

There were also fears about privatising a footpath that is widely used in the community, the cutting down of trees and nearby residents were concerned about the estate infringing on the privacy of their homes.

Concerns were also raised around protected red squirrels living on the site. Council officers said a report had been conducted to say there were none of the species in the area, but this was disputed by residents.

Four objectors attended the meeting of the Cumberland planning committee yesterday, September 27 to voice their views, claiming they represented many more people in the town.

One objector said they were ‘yet to find any local people in favour of this development’.

Another said: “I just feel very strongly about this application going ahead. It just seems wherever there is a nice piece of land in Cockermouth people want to build.

“I think it’s going to be very detrimental to Cockermouth. I feel it’s just another place lost. I just feel that Cockermouth is being slowly destroyed.”

The application had been called in by councillor Andy Semple who represents the Cockermouth South ward where the old fire station is situated.

Speaking on the proposals at the meeting, Cllr Semple said: “I have walked that path 30 years and I completely understand what everybody has said today.

“We have a duty as a new planning committee to really protect Cockermouth.

“There are maybe one thousand families who rely on that footpath.”

Mr Dobie attended the meeting saying he had worked on the application with the community in mind.

Mr Dobie said: “I believe that the proposals before you are consistent with your development plan. We have created many different and pleasing properties over the last forty years as a family.”

Mr Dobie pointed out the Washington Central Hotel in Workington, the Sleepwell Inn and the pyramids on his industrial estate at Lillyhall as examples, saying they are ‘very pleasing to the eye’.

The plans were approved by the planning committee with conditions. Four councillors on the committee voted against the plans.