Decision on apartment plans for South Shields' historic Sir William Fox Hotel in Westoe Village put on hold after proposals for building called 'disturbing' and 'severe'

Plans to transform a historic hotel into rental apartments have been put on hold following concerns from councillors.

Tuesday, 24th November 2020, 6:00 am
Born in Westoe Village, Sir William Fox, a lawyer and writer who emigrated to New Zealand, then a colony, and went on to become the second Premier of New Zealand. He held that office on four separate occasions in the 19th century. His birthplace is now a hotel bearing his name.

The Sir William Fox Hotel in Westoe was the birthplace of the real-life Sir William Fox, the second Prime Minister of New Zealand.

The application has since been amended – including the removal of one rear extension and replacing proposed caretakers accommodation with an extra apartment.

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The Sir William Fox Hotel in Westoe Village.

Revised plans, which include a single one-bedroom apartment and six two-bedroom apartments, were recommended for approval by council planners this week.

However, the council’s Planning Committee voted unanimously to defer the plans for the hotel after concerns were raised about the potential impact on the heritage treasure.

“This is a Grade II-listed building and was designated in 1971 as part of the Westoe Village Conservation Area,” said councillor Gladys Hobson.

“I am disturbed about what is happening here, like the objectors I do feel that this is an over-development of the site.

“I’m unable to see the room sizes properly and I’m not sure that they do meet the standards under the Housing Act.

“We already had a statement put out by South Tyneside Council on renting properties and the suitable size of rooms in these properties.”

Councillor Hobson was speaking at November 23’s virtual planning meeting, and also referenced comments from council officers in a report prepared for the committee.

This included proposed windows not being accepted as a means of escape and the installation of a roof light not being supported.

As councillors were unable to arrange a site visit due to Covid-19, Cllr Hobson called for the application to be deferred to allow councillors to inspect the plans further.

Councillor Geraldine Kilgour also noted that the subdivision of the hotel to create two-bedroomed accommodation was “quite severe” and backed the deferral.

The decision to defer the plans followed written statements from objectors and the applicants, which were read out at the meeting.

Westoe Village Residents Association said the plans represented an “over-development” of the site and called for the plans to be refused.

Other concerns included the impact on the character and amenity of Westoe Village and some rooms not meeting the Government’s national space standards.

Meanwhile, applicants confirmed the apartments would be rented – with a private management service agreement set in place for communal areas to ensure “upkeep and maintenance.”

They added the conversion would “respect the heritage asset while returning the building to a residential use” alongside meeting local housing needs.

The Sir William Fox Hotel provides 13 guest rooms and has been in existence since the 1970s.

Planning officers, recommending the plans for approval, said the apartment scheme complied with planning policy and would not cause any harm.

Following the Planning Committee’s decision to defer the plans, the application will be discussed at a future meeting.

The deferral aims to allow time for councillors to inspect larger versions of the plans via appointment at the town hall and to gather more information on the proposed internal works.

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