A PLANNING application to turn a dilapidated activity centre in Ringwood into a £4.5million art centre has been put on hold until June following concerns raised by New Forest District Council and Ringwood Town Council.

Noise, odour and impact on residents are some of the issues raised by environmental officers about the plan to demolish Greyfriars activity centre and replace it with a three-storey theatre building with a cafe and bar.

And these concerns, along with landscaping and potential traffic problems, were echoed by Ringwood Town Council’s planning committee.

Chairman of the Art Centre steering group Mike Osborne said that following delays with Highways reports the group had employed an independent consultant to look at the plan.

He said: “Having the application considered in June instead of April will give us time to carry out a thorough job on this very important issue and look at the concerns raised by the district council’s environmental health and landscape officers.

“We’d obviously like the town council to be behind us – it’s important a community development of this scale has the support of local people.”

While almost 300 residents commented on the application, most lodging their support, some people were worried about loss of parking and the visual impact of the new building, in particular the building’s 16.7m theatre fly tower.

Mr Osborne added: “The steering group has recognised that any loss of parking due to the development would require resolution, which is why it is working very hard in consultation with the relevant authorities to resolve the issue.”

Steering committee member Julian Peckham added: “We firmly believe the fly tower will be a very positive asset to the building. Without it the Arts Centre would be just another hall with a stage.”

“There have been claims that the fly tower would be as high as the spires of Trinity Church – but this is not the case. The highest part of the Arts Centre would be 16.7m high whereas the Trinity Church finials are 17.5m high.

Architect Stephen Johnson, of Ringwood firm Williams Lester, said: “Undeniably, the new Greyfriars Arts Centre design proposes a community building of significant size – to be expected, given the level of accommodation and diverse range of cultural facilities it will offer.

“We are mindful that the site lies within the setting of a listed building and the conservation area, and its details have been developed in a sensitive but contemporary manner, referencing the strong use of well-detailed red brickwork prevalent in the town.”