AN ALTERNATIVE vision has been proposed for the landmark North Quay former council office site in Weymouth.

A property developer has released a new plans as Dorset Council revealed the prime site could soon be up for sale.

Architect plans and a CGI video have been released by a Dorchester-based property developer Avoca Group and architects firm Fisher Design Studio - and are strikingly different to the design unveiled by Dorset Council in January.

Dorset Echo: The Dorset Council-proposed design for the former North Quay offices The Dorset Council-proposed design for the former North Quay offices

Those plans were the subject of a residents' consultation - with the results released just days before new plans were shared by the independent property developer.

The alternative design, which was shared on social media, led to some confusion as residents thought the official Dorset Council design had changed - causing the council to release a statement clarifying that Avoca is not connected to the project.

Avoca's vision shows the existing structure being retained and transformed - with new homes, a hospitality and retail space, performance and arts venue, sculptural garden, visitor centre and public car parking.

Dorset Echo:

The council has insisted it intends to demolish the former council building and start from scratch.

But the moves have brought to light that there is no cast-iron guarantee of how the proposed luxury development will eventually look as no definitive plan for the build has been decided.

The council said it may put the site up for sale to a developer once planning permission is in place, among other options. A spokesman said it is 'unlikely' that Dorset Council would do the build - another option would be to appoint a developer as part of a joint project.

Dorset Echo: Avoca's new vision is the result of a year's work according to architectsAvoca's new vision is the result of a year's work according to architects

The authority is yet to submit a planning application for the site but expects to do so by 'early summer' when it will become clearer how much flexibility there would be for changes to the current design proposal.

Avoca did not respond when asked whether it has intentions of purchasing the site - with director Nick Illes stating that the alternative design concept has been produced in a bid to 'stimulate discussion to try and move the development forwards.'

The designs are a result of a year's work, according to a social media post by the architects firm.

Dorset Echo: A new proposed site plan is different from the Dorset Council visionA new proposed site plan is different from the Dorset Council vision

The post states: "We've retained the existing council offices and propose to convert the ground floor to hospitality units with a harbourside patio for restaurants. The remaining floors will be converted to apartments to make use of the existing building with sympathetic contemporary additions to the existing structure to help maximise use of the site.

"A further addition to the south of the site is a new mixed use building incorporating undercroft parking, commercial units and residential accommodation above."

A joint statement was later released by Avoca and Fisher Design Studio. A spokesman said: "Our design concept has been produced to stimulate discussion, by showing an alternative vision for what could be delivered on a landmark site in Weymouth.

Dorset Echo: A performance venue is proposed by the developerA performance venue is proposed by the developer

"The scheme has been developed by two local firms whose staff live and work in the area. We’ve sought to use our local knowledge and experience as designers and developers to create a concept which responds to local needs, retains a community stake in the site and is financially viable."

Commenting on the future of the site a Dorset Council spokesman said: "We have yet to determine our model of delivery for the North Quay and Weymouth Bowl schemes. We are currently in the process of refining the schemes and the basis of any planning submission, with the aim of seeking planning permission in early summer.

"There are a number of different options to deliver these schemes of which sale to a developer is only one. If a sale is agreed to be the best option, we believe it is better to do this with planning permission in place, as opposed to an unconditional or subject to planning approach, in order to ensure the council’s aims and objectives can be met, that the best commercial and social value can be achieved, and to guarantee the scheme goes ahead as set out.

"As a public body, if we do proceed with a sale of the site, it will be an open, fair and transparent process, seeking proposals from the open market, in line with our governance processes and evaluated against a set of commercial, environmental and social criteria."

Dorset Echo:

In the statement issued by Avoca Group and Fisher Design Studio, the following aims were set out for the site:

  • Enhance the urban environment and extend the centre of the old town to add to the current tourism offering.
  • Deliver meaningful community assets in the form of the Arts Centre, Sculptural Gardens and Visitors Centre.
  • Deliver a financially viable scheme that doesn’t burden the public purse.
  • Provide further opportunity for small businesses through the inclusion of pop-up units.
  • Provide a modest level of hospitality to reinforce the local offering and increase footfall in the area.
  • Retain the existing number of parking spaces in unallocated spaces.
  • Maintain existing vehicular routes but change the emphasis to encourage more pedestrians and reduce traffic flows.