Sandbanks residents war over £250m plan to build block of flats

Millionaire Sandbanks residents are at war with developers over £250m plan to build ‘soulless’ block of 119 flats on site of Victorian hotel where radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi set up wireless station in 1898

  • Developers of a £250m block of 119 luxury flats plan to bulldoze the historic hotel where radio was invented
  • The 141-year-old Haven Hotel at Poole Harbour, Dorset, would be demolished to make way for development
  • Almost 5,000 letters of objection to the plans have been lodged by residents of the local Sandbanks area

Millionaire residents of Sandbanks are battling developers over plans to build a ‘soulless’ block of flats on the site of an historic hotel where inventor of the radio Guglielmo Marconi established the world’s first wireless communications. 

Almost 5,000 letters of objection have been lodged against the £250million development, which if approved by planning officers, would see the Haven Hotel at Poole Harbour, Dorset, bulldozed to the ground.

The 141-year-old building is where Italian engineer Marconi lived with his family and set up radio communications between France and England across the English channel.  

Under the proposed plans the hotel would be replaced with a six-storey block of 119 luxury apartments.

It has been announced that Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council will decide on the planning application in the coming months, and has prompted more than 1,700 fresh letters of objection in under a week. 

Almost 5,000 letters of objection have been lodged against the £250million development (pictured), which if approved by planning officers, would see the Haven Hotel at Poole Harbour, Dorset, bulldozed to the ground

The 141-year-old building, The Haven Hotel (pictured), is where engineer Guglielmo Marconi established the world’s first wireless communications. Under the plans, it would be replaced with a six-storey block of 119 luxury apartments

The surge of opposition was prompted after a campaign group produced 10,000 leaflets which were distributed locally to highlight the issue.

Save Sandbanks, which boasts over 500 members, has also hired lawyers and set up a website and social media accounts to derail the plans.

Initial plans submitted in 2017 were met with outrage from well-heeled residents who formed a protest movement, Protect Sandbanks Group.

Protesters believe the apartment block would make Sandbanks resemble a British version of Benidorm, a Spanish resort known for its high rises and partying-culture.

The local council received more than 2,300 objections from people in the first year – with residents describing the block of flats as a ‘monstrous carbuncle’ that would overlook the multi-million pounds harbourside mansions. 

Protesters believe the apartment block would make Sandbanks resemble a British version of Benidorm, a Spanish resort known for its high rises and partying-culture. Haven Hotel (pictured)

Old postcard of the historic Haven Hotel. The well-heeled residents of Sandbanks are steeling for a battle with developers over plans to replace a historic hotel with a ‘soulless’ block of flats

 Objections have been lodged by the RSPB over the impact the new buildings will have on bird migration and the Environment Agency due to an inadequate flood risk assessment for the hotel site. Pictured: The Haven Hotel in 1938

Who was Guglielmo Marconi? The Italian radio pioneer who lived in Haven Hotel for eight years from 1898

Guglielmo Marconi, 1874 to 1937, was an Italian inventor who is credited for inventing the radio.  

Marconi developed the first radiotelegraphy machines in 1894 to 95, which were the first practical radio transmitters. 

The inventor established a wireless transmitter at Sandbanks’ Haven Hotel in 1898, carrying out out some of his first experiments there. 

Radiotelegraphy involves the transmission of ‘dots’ and ‘dashes’ which spells out text messages, like Morse code. 

It continued to be the only form of radio transmission up until WWI. 

In 1901, Marconi sent radio waves across the Atlantic Ocean, which led to the machines being used in ship-to-shore and ship-to-ship communication.    

Marconi’s invention helped save the lives of more than 700 people on board the Titanic, which sank in April 1912, and orders for maritime wireless equipment were piling up.

In Chelmsford, Essex, Marconi opened the first ever wireless factory in 1912, from which he broadcast to the whole world.   

The planning application has since been revised, although campaigners say it is ‘essentially the same’.

David Morley, chairman of Save Sandbanks, said: ‘The application was filed four years ago and things have been grinding away since then.

‘It has been through changes but essentially the proposal remains the same – to knock down the Haven Hotel and replace it with a block of flats.

‘It is part of a larger plan to demolish the Sandbanks Hotel and Harbour Heights Hotel and redevelop them as hotels.

‘But it is Haven Hotel element of the proposal which is the most controversial.

‘We have learnt that the proposal is likely to come before the planning committee in the coming months, although we don’t know this for sure.

‘As we are getting closer to a decision, we’ve gone out to the public again to draw people’s attention to the development, as most people would have forgotten about it after four years.

‘We had 10,000 leaflets delivered by the Post Office to households and since then 1,776 objections have been filed.

‘There were already 3,000 letters of objection before that so I think this shows the strength of community feeling.

‘Something really significant will be lost from Sandbanks if this goes through.’

Of the plans to knock down the Haven Hotel, he has previously said: ‘Sydney Harbour has the iconic Opera House, Poole Harbour gets a block of flats.

‘The first sight for millions of visitors would be this out of scale, soulless tower block on the beautiful face of Poole Harbour.’

Poole is home to the second largest natural harbour in the world behind Sydney and it is also an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Objections have been lodged by the RSPB over the impact the new buildings will have on bird migration and the Environment Agency due to an inadequate flood risk assessment for the hotel site.

If approved, as well as the Haven becoming flats, the Sandbanks Hotel would be redeveloped as a new five star 185-bedroom hotel and the Harbour Heights would become a 38-apartment hotel and spa.

The plans have been submitted on behalf of the owner of the three hotels, FJB Hotels.

Sandbanks famous residents include former football manager Graeme Souness and computer magnate Sir Peter Ogden.

The Sandbanks peninsula in Dorset. Tesidents include former football manager Graeme Souness and computer magnate Sir Peter Ogden

Recent CGIs of the proposed flats on the Haven Hotel site. The plans have been submitted on behalf of the owner of the three hotels, FJB Hotels

The changing face of Sandbanks: How windswept wasteland cut off from the rest of the country became one of the world’s most sought-after addresses

Before the rich and famous moved in: Parkstone-on-Sea as it was then known, went from a deserted landscape to Britain’s answer to Monte Carlo

Just 100 years ago, before it became one of the world’s most exclusive and expensive addresses, the Sandbanks peninsula in Dorset was little more than a windswept wasteland, cut off from the rest of the country and unrecognisable from the glossy coastal resort that exists today.

And while the mega-rich now compete to build bigger and better harbour-front homes, snapping up plots whenever they become available, in 1880 the tiny enclave in Poole was only home to a solitary hotel on the southern tip of the peninsula, where guests could get away from the rest of civilisation.

Sandbanks, or Parkstone-on-Sea as it was known, has gone from a deserted landscape to Britain’s answer to Monte Carlo.

A proper roadway linking the peninsula to the mainland was only laid after the First World War at a time when many former servicemen returned from battle only to find themselves out of work.

The highway made Sandbanks more accessible and it naturally started to become popular among holidaymakers and daytrippers.

Larger houses started to be built on the previously unspoiled land, with a wealthy banker and father-of-eight, Dr Edward Andreae, becoming Sandbanks’ first property magnate by building eight homes on the peninsula – one for each of his children.

Descendents of the family still own one of the properties built by Dr Andreae, who was of German descent, today.

Another wealthy type who built and owned a principal residence was Lord Leonard Lyle MP, the chairman of sugar giant Tate and Lyle.

The sand dunes in the middle of the peninsula once stood at up to 100ft high but they were gradually flattened as bigger, permanent houses were built in the years between the two world wars.

However, the area’s progress was halted by the Second World War when it became a fortified military base and it took until the 1960s for development on the peninsula to really take off.

The remaining empty plots along the waterside were snapped up by buyers, and some of the older properties were demolished and built on.

Although Sandbanks was a very prosperous place, it remained relatively affordable to locals with flats selling for less than £100,000 in the 1980s.

But some canny marketing in the 1990s by local estate agents put Sandbanks on the world map and transformed it overnight from a picturesque coastal suburb to Poole to something of a millionaire’s row.

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