A DECISION is expected next week on the possible conversion of a former  military hospital in Dorchester into five flats.

Developers George Crook and Sons claim the planning proposal is the best way to preserve the building on the town's Grove Industrial estate.

The site has empty for a number of years after last being used as offices for a coach travel company in the 1990s and has been marketed for employment use since then, without success.

It is one of the few buildings to remain intact from the days of the Maumbury Barracks, originally part of the Royal Horse Artillery Barracks built in 1799. The hospital served the soldiers and their families until the mid-20th Century.

The site was also used as part of the Prisoner of War camp at Dorchester – which, at its peak held 4,500 men. Many of the buildings which had formed the barracks were sold to Royal Mail and Dorset County Council in the early 1960s.

Dorset Echo: The building is one of the few buildings to remain intact from the days of the Maumbury BarracksThe building is one of the few buildings to remain intact from the days of the Maumbury Barracks

The former military hospital is one of two Grade II listed buildings within the trading estate, the other being the former riding school which is now used by a carpet business and a cleaning company.

Mr Crook’s company says the changes to the external appearance of the building would be minimal to protect its historic character.

The building work would also restore some of the period features such as chimney breasts, “to create homes with a unique sense of character,” said the application.

Dorchester town councillors have expressed reservations about the project, some claiming the site, on an industrial estate, is not suitable for homes. Others say the entire site should be kept for employment use.

Dorset Council planning officers accept that there is a range of views about the use of the site for housing, suggesting that this/next week’s area planning committee on November 30 accept the changes: “There is a degree of conflict with development plan policies in relation to protecting key employment sites and protecting residential amenity but, on balance, when considered against the development plan as a whole, it is considered that there is overall accordance with this plan and the proposal should be supported subject to conditions.”

The proposals, which have been amended since first proposed, allow for a 1-bed and two 2-bed ground floor flats and a 2-bed and a 3-bed flat on the first floor. The original application, in March 2019, asked for six flats on the site.