Hope for future of fire-hit Victoria Hall after 'aparthotel' plans approved for historic South Shields building

Plans have been approved to convert a fire-hit historic South Shields building into an ‘aparthotel’, offering fresh hope for its future.

Tuesday, 15th June 2021, 10:25 pm

The Grade-II listed Victoria Hall off Fowler Street was damaged in a ‘heartbreaking’ fire on bank holiday weekend at the end of May, sparking calls to secure its future.

The hall is an iconic building in the town, hosting dances and housing several businesses over its 125-year history.

Back in 2019, a planning application was lodged with South Tyneside Council to revamp vacant upper floors following the closure of Italian restaurant, La Rossa.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The Victoria Hall the day after the blaze
The Victoria Hall the day after the blaze

At the time, applicant Property Developments Ltd outlined plans to open an aparthotel at the site – with apartments offered via a hotel-style booking system.

According to a heritage statement, the building would benefit from a raft of improvement works with several key features preserved.

This included a mosaic tile floor spelling out ‘Victoria Hall’ at the building’s entrance.

The Victoria Hall the day after the blaze

However, a recent planning decision for the aparthotel use and improvements to the listed building could provide fresh hope for the heritage treasure.

South Tyneside Council’s planning department approved the 2019 planning application and a separate bid for listed building consent on June 11, 2021.

This included converting the building into an aparthotel with the subdivision of the first floor and a new mezzanine floor, creating a total of seven flats.

Six of the flats would offer one bedroom, while one flat on the second floor would offer two bedrooms.

Firefighters at the scene of the Victoria Hall blaze in South Shields. Photo by Liam Christopher Walker.

During the planning process, several amendments were made to the scheme following comments from the council’s historic environment officer.

In their conclusions, planning officers said the scheme was acceptable and would not harm the viability of South Shields town centre.

A report from a planning officer reads: “It is considered that the proposed aparthotel within a secondary shopping frontage of South Shields town centre would not harm the vitality and viability of the town centre or its primary shopping frontages.

“The proposed development would bring a prominent vacant building back into use.

“As such, it is considered that the proposed development would be appropriate and is in accordance with Policies SC2 and SS7 of the South Tyneside Local Development Framework and the National Planning Policy Framework.”

According to its listing information, Victoria Hall dates back to 1896 and has 20th century alterations.

The building has housed several businesses over the decades, including Italian restaurants Casa Rosa and La Rossa.

While it has sat empty, drugs farms been uncovered on the premises twice following police raids in 2014 and 2019.

Subject to planning conditions, the decision report from planners stressed that the development would “convey sensitive consideration of its surroundings and protect, preserve and enhance the historic character, heritage, visual appearance and contextual importance of the listed building.”

The new aparthotel venture at the site is also expected to create one full-time job and two part-time roles.

For more information on the plans and council decision, visit South Tyneside Council’s planning portal and search reference: ST/0543/19/FUL

Support your Gazette and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news, the latest football stories and new puzzles every day. With a digital subscription, you can see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe.