Sheltered housing scheme fails to maintain conservation area style

The demolition of a hotel in a Kent conservation area to facilitate the erection of 22 retirement homes would lead to the loss of an important tourist facility and undermine the character of the locality.

The site lay within a town popular with tourists. The appellant argued that the hotel only achieved a 25 per cent occupancy rate which was well below others in the area. It was suggested that this was an endemic problem due to the building’s configuration and lack of opportunities to hold functions and events. The council asserted that it was due to a lack of investment.

The premises had been marketed in 2010 but no offers had been received, the inspector noted. But in his opinion the value attributed to the hotel was excessive and did not reflect its true worth which accounted for the lack of interest. Considerable investment would be required to improve the facilities and it did not sit comfortably within the business models of budget hotels or wedding venues. It was not, however, beyond revival with the right owner, the inspector concluded, but its loss alone would not outweigh the need to provide accommodation for the elderly.

Nonetheless, the impact on the character of the conservation area, the building appearing as a large, unrelieved block of flats coupled to a somewhat arbitrary arrangement of gables, roof forms and fenestration, would be harmful. This design lacked any elegance or finesse, the inspector decided, with a proliferation of forms accentuating the overall bulk of the building. Given the loss of two well proportioned and attractive buildings on the site, the replacement design was unacceptable in failing to preserve the character of the conservation area.

Inspector: David Nicholson; Written representations

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