WHILE some neighbours billed the redevelopment of Bromley South as a battle between David and Goliath, to councillors it was a chance to create an icon for the town centre and move forward into the 21st century.
Last night councillors approved the building of a £90m residential and leisure complex at the site of the Westmoreland Road car park, which will be demolished later this year.
Dubbed Bromley South Central, it will boast a nine-screen cinema, 200 flats, a 130-bedroom hotel, 25,000sq ft of restaurants and cafes and a 400-space underground car park.
Pitching the proposals, Mark Hoskins from NTR planning, the agent representing developer Cathedral Group, said the development "will serve as a significant catalyst for the town centre regeneration".
Bromley Town councillor Will Harmer voiced concerns that Bromley needed to catch up with the likes of Croydon and Bluewater but warned the issue of car parking should not be ignored.
Backing the scheme, he said: "One of the draws of Bluewater is people can easily park for free. It's no use having a high quality cinema and restaurants if no-one can park to use them."
Councillor Peter Dean, chairman of the development control committee which approved the plans, tried to allay concerns over the height of the proposed building.
He said: "Tall does not necessarily mean bad.
"Perhaps this building could become an icon of Bromley.
"It's a major application in our area action plan and we want to move Bromley into the 21st century."
Councillor Anne Manning said it was an "exciting design" and was particularly keen on a second cinema for the town centre, branding the sole existing Empire cinema as "the pits".
But objecting to the plans, resident Fiona Howarth in Ravensbourne Road told the committee that the scheme was "immeasurably worse" than the current "unattractive vista" of the car park.
She said: "The 19 storey structure will be four times the height of the car park and will fill my outlook so I will barely see the sky.
"Only occasionally will the sun shine on my house. These matters will also affect my neighbours and we will all lose privacy.
"David is Ravensbourne Road and Goliath the structure."
Only one councillor opposed the plans, Kathy Bance, on the grounds it would be "overbearing" for residents.
Cathedral estimates the development will create 220 jobs in the borough and inject at least £220m into the local economy over the next 10 years.
Work is due to begin later this year and be completed in 2014.
In a statement issued after the meeting, Cllr Dean said: "The Development Control Committee has reached a landmark decision in granting permission to this substantial application, which significantly improves the leisure offer in Bromley.
"It is a top quality scheme which not only will see the establishment of an iconic building at an important town centre gateway but is entirely in line with our Area Action Plan.
"Whilst accepting that there will be an impact on some local residences, the committee felt that this would be minimal as the applicants have worked hard to mitigate these concerns particularly in relation to parking.
"We are also conscious that careful management will be required throughout the construction period, but on balance we are delighted with the economic and architectural benefits that will be generated on behalf of all residents throughout Bromley as a result of the development control decision."