THE transformation of the site of an old council-run care home into new purpose-built apartments has been approved, despite major heritage concerns.

Developers want to convert the Oliver House site in Bishophill into retirement housing and the plan was approved at a council planning meeting in York on Thursday afternoon.

McCarthy and Stone's plans had been branded as too big and inappropriate for the historic and sensitive city centre location.

York Press:

Oliver House, which closed in 2012, will be razed to the ground and 29 two-bedroomed apartments put in its place at the junction of Lower Priory Street and Bishophill Junior.

City of York Council's planning committee voted in favour of McCarthy and Stone's controversial plans, despite Historic England and some residents claiming it would block out views of St Mary's Bishophill Junior, the oldest church in York.

Residents echoed these concerns at the meeting, but Elizabeth Harris, a 79-year-old nearby resident, spoke in support of the building.

She said it was ideal for older residents who did not have to travel by car or public transport to shops, cinemas or the train station.

"There's a shortage of this type of housing in York," she added.

"Given this city is saturated with student accommodation and young people's apartments, it's only fair that older people should be able to enjoy something like this."

Councillors agreed with Mrs Harris and said it was a worthwhile development for York city centre.

Cllr Christina Funnell added: "I am relieved to see that dreadful monstrosity, Oliver House, going.

"I walk past it every day and don't care for it."

Cllr Peter Dew said the height of the building should not pose a problem.

"One of the things I noticed from the site meeting was that a three storey Victorian terrace is the same size as a four storey modern building," he added.

Cllr Andy D'Agorne said: "We all welcome provision for our ageing population and perhaps I have been more conscious of this with my own parents and the need people their age have to live independently and have access to services."

As well as the 29 bedrooms, the conversion will involve building a roof terrace, 14 parking spaces and landscaped gardens.

McCarthy and Stone believe the apartments give people the chance to downsize and free up larger homes for families.

Neighbours and heritage experts have told planners that McCarthy and Stone’s new building will block out significant views of the city, and will overshadow a historic church nearby.

The church of St Mary Bishophill Junior dates from the mediaeval period, and is the oldest continuously occupied building in York.

Historic England and York Civic Trust had objected to the size of the proposed apartment buildings, saying their mass would damage the Conservation Area between St Mary's Bishophill Junior and the Bar Walls.

The council’s planning officers said that because the plans had already been altered, they did not threaten the important historic buildings.

A written report to the planning committee said amendments like lowering the roof height were enough to address the concerns, adding that the existing buff brick built care home building was “a significant detractor” in the area, and getting rid of it would be of considerable public benefit.

The proposed buildings will also fit in more closely with the existing 19th century terraced houses on the streets, the planners say.

The planners are also proposing that the council accept only £570,000 – negotiated down from £850,000 – from McCarthy and Stone in lieu of any provision of affordable housing in the 34 apartment development. The council is set to gain £3.2 million from selling the site to the retirement housing specialist.

That money is earmarked for the older people’s housing project, which is an overhaul for accommodation and care for older people in York including the construction of a new care home on the old Burnholme school site, more sheltered housing, and the closure of the city’s existing council-run care homes.