A PROMINENT building in Weymouth town centre could gain an extra two floors as part of redevelopment proposals unveiled today to build new flats and revive the rundown site.

A well-used passageway under Brenda Dench House would also be gated and locked at nighttime, in a bid to reduce anti-social behaviour and increase security for people living at the site.

Brenda Dench House, at numbers 38-42 St Mary Street and 36 Maiden Street, near St Mary's church, currently comprises nine flats, above retail space accommodating six shops. A passageway underneath the building connects the two parallel streets.

Proposals to increase the building's height to four storeys have now been unveiled by developer, Titchfield Investments Ltd, which wants to build a further nine flats: six two-bedroomed, two one-bedroomed, and one studio.

Dorset Echo: Current St Mary Street (top) compared with proposed streetscene (below)Current St Mary Street (top) compared with proposed streetscene (below)

Named after a popular former Mayor of Weymouth, the building has become the subject of controversy in recent years. The flats were occupied by social housing tenants - but all were rehoused after the Echo published a report highlighting squalid living conditions and allegations of people breaking into the building and taking drugs in the hallway.

The developer appears to proposing a solution, however: one of the ground floor shops would be converted into a bicycle and bin store if the plans get the go-ahead. The remainder of the retail space would remain.

Previously, the communal bin store had been located in a cupboard under the main stairwell, creating an extremely unpleasant smell and attracting flies.

Dorset Echo: Proposed 3d visualProposed 3d visual

Meanwhile, the planning application includes a request to install gates at each entrance to the passageway so that access can be restricted to residents-only at night, in a bid to increase security and prevent anti-social behaviour.

No parking provisions are included, however. "Residents would have the ability to access a significant number of leisure facilities, amenity space and employment opportunities by foot", a spokesman for the developer said.

None of the flats would be classed as "affordable" and one would slightly fall short of the Government's minimum space standard - but only by 2.1 square metres, according to the developer.

Dorset Echo: How the redevelopment could look from St Mary StreetHow the redevelopment could look from St Mary Street

Assurances have been made that the development would not overpower the street scene or reduce the significance of Brenda Dench House.

Describing their design as "thoughtful", the architects say it would enhance the interesting and quirky character of the neighbouring property, occupied by the Fantastic Sausage Factory, whilst also being in keeping with the three storey building on the corner of St Mary Street and St Alban Street.

Dorset Echo: The Maiden Street side of the buildingThe Maiden Street side of the building

Ward councillor for Melcombe Regis Jon Orrell supports the redevelopment. He said the building's current design is "poor" with a maze of corridors, run down interior, and that the entrances are "muddled."

"The new scheme looks much more coherent," he added. "This building needs substantial investment and redesign so I fully support the changes."

Public comments can be made until November 26 via Dorset Council's planning portal: planning.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk reference number P/FUL/2021/04330