Hotel changes dismissed on resort heritage harm

An inspector's concerns over harm to a locally listed hotel and a conservation area have led to refusal of a mixed-use scheme in an Essex resort, despite extensive public support for the proposal.

The scheme, comprising a bar and restaurant, a health club and 19 apartments, was proposed for a disused seaside hotel which the inspector considered an iconic feature of the townscape by virtue of its elevated position, elaborate decorative facades and prominent and distinctive roof profile. The main issue related to proposed alterations to the mansard roof and addition of a penthouse, which the appellant said were necessary to make the scheme viable. A similar mixed-use scheme without the roof alterations had previously been permitted.

The inspector found that, from a number of important viewpoints, the bulkier form of the proposed mansard, together with the recessed penthouse, would undermine the visual dominance of the roof profile of what she considered to be a landmark building, resulting in significant harm. She also found that the scheme would cause less than substantial harm to the conservation area, given that the hotel was the most significant and prominent building within it.

In weighing the public benefits, the inspector accepted that these included the long-term restoration of a locally important building at risk and 19 new homes to boost supply. But she found these insufficient to outweigh environmental harm to the building and conservation area. On the viability arguments, she found the information submitted inconclusive, remarking that the permitted scheme would achieve restoration of the building just as well.

The council’s claim for an award of costs against the appellant was refused. In the inspector’s view, it had incurred no unnecessary or wasted expense, despite pre-application advice relating to a similar scheme suggesting that the proposal would not be supported. She pointed out that pre-application advice is only advisory and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the council as a whole, so the appellant was entitled to test this advice through the application and appeal process.

Inspector: Andrea Mageean; Hearing

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