AN ‘out of place’ redundant warehouse can be converted into homes despite being only a few feet from a neighbouring property.

Approval has been given for the former Kerryfresh building on Gravel Hill, Shirrell Heath, to be converted into nine homes.

But the Winchester City Council planning committee heard that the Government’s easing of planning rules had meant that the principle of conversion from industrial use to housing had already been approved in a delegated decision by their officers.

It meant that the committee could not undermine that decision even though they may disagree with it.

Speaking for the owner of Gravel Hill House, consultant James Cain, said: “The impact on neighbours of this loss of privacy was not able to be considered. I know that this committee is hamstrung by the previous approval.”

There is only 4.5 metres between the warehouse and Gravel Hill House.

Local ward councillor Roger Bentote said at the time of the previous application local people assumed the building would be demolished and four or five new houses built.

He said: “This building does not sit in the countryside. It is an urban building. The building is as out of place in Shirrell Heath as a thatched cottage on the High Street.

“This is a nice opportunity to provide five new dwellings. This scheme is overcrowding. It is just not right for a countryside development.”

Nick Billington, agent for the applicant Paul Byng said the proposed scheme would enhance a derelict plot. There would be no direct overlooking of any neighbour.

Cllr Jane Rutter said: “In normal circumstances this would not have been given planning permission. There has been a change in national policy which has allowed this through and we are faced with a fait accompli.”

Julie Pinnock, service lead built environment, explained that the change to residential had been allowed under permitted development rights so it didn’t requite planning permission in the usual way.

Cllr Russell Gordon-Smith said: “I’m appalled the planning system allows this to happen and we end up just debating the shape of the windows.”

Committee chairman Therese Evans said: “Our hands are tied. It already has permission to be residential. There could have been something nicer. I feel very sorry for the residents of Gravel Hill House who live so close.”

The committee approved the scheme by six votes to none but hopes the developer will come back with a better scheme.

Cllr Evans asked Cllr Bentote “to explain to the parish council why the committee was forced to take that position”.