PLANS to convert a Magna Housing office building into 18 flats have been welcomed by Dorchester town council.

But resident living there could find themselves suffering from occasional helicopter noise.

A field behind the Oak House building, at the junction of Poundbury Road and the entrance to adjoining trading estate at Millers Close, is currently being used by air ambulances while building work continues at Dorset County Hospital until the end of 2026.

It is also used by the adjoining Territorial Army headquarters for military flights, including rare visits by the large double-rotor Chinook helicopter.

Town councillors discussing the proposal say that while they welcome the flats, a mix of one and two-bed, they would prefer to see as many as possible being ‘affordable’. They have also asked for details of green spaces and landscaping and an assurance over the number of car parking spaces at the prominent site.

Cllr Richard Biggs, who lives within a quarter of a mile of Oak House, told Monday evening’s town council planning committee that even inside his home, helicopter noise could be quite intrusive, with flights during daytime and, less frequently, at night.

“They will need adequate sound proofing,” said Cllr Biggs.

Cllr Molly Rennie said that with the likelihood of children living in the flats the plans ought to be show details of a play area and other green spaces, but at the moment there was no mention of either.

Cllr Fiona Kent-Ledger said she would like to see guarantees about the number of parking spaces: “It can be horrendous there…there is a particular bottleneck at that corner,” she said, referring to drivers who park on estate roads to avoid paying for car parks.

The office block was previously Magna’s headquarters but the business now lists its administrative headquarters a short distance away at Everdene House on the Railway Triangle Industrial Estate, a building which was once an abattoir. Like others Magna has found it needed less office space following changes to working patterns after Covid.

If the change for its former HQ is agreed it could become the second office block on the estate to be converted – further into the estate a building, which was once a military hospital, has been given consent for a change to homes.

The conversion plans for Oak House have been submitted by Worcester-based Prime (UK) Developments Ltd and detail virtually no changes to the exterior of the functional exsisting buildings.

The company is asking Dorset Council if it needs to seek full planning consent or whether it can go ahead through the prior approval route, which is less cumbersome and less expensive, although limits public comment.

The application asks for 12 flats on the ground floor and six on the first floor with the sizes varying from 37 square metres, to 78 square metres, although the majority, which are one-bed, average just over 50square metres. In all eight of the proposal flats would be two-bed.

Said Prime (UK) Developments in a report to Dorset Council: “The site is within a mixed-use part of the town with other residential buildings on the opposite side of Poundbury Road. There are light industrial uses to the north of the site, but these would not be impacted by the introduction of further residential into the immediate area.”

Unless councillors can persuade Dorset Council to insist on a full planning application for the site the current request, for prior approval, is likely to be decide by a council planning case officer without the need for it to come before a committee made up of councillors.

Said a statement issued by Magna: "

“Magna Housing is currently working with specialist health and care property developers, Prime PLC, to sell its former head office building, Oak House on Poundbury Road. The building has been empty and unused since Magna moved to its current Dorchester office, post the COVID pandemic. 

“The sale will see Oak House brought back into use, benefitting local partners and additionally the money from the sale will be reinvested by Magna into building and improving affordable homes for its customers and local communities.

“Once Prime have purchased the site, they will be able to produce more detailed designs for the space, in particular providing additional outside green space and enhancing biodiversity on the site. Parking needs will be assessed as part of this design process.”