Government inspector to decide on future of Grade II listed Sir William Fox Hotel in South Shields
Plans to transform a historic South Tyneside hotel into apartments are set to be decided by a government-appointed planning inspector.
The Sir William Fox Hotel in Westoe was the birthplace of the real-life Sir William Fox, the second Prime Minister of New Zealand.
Earlier this year, plans were lodged with South Tyneside Council to convert the Grade II-listed building into apartments, sparking several objections from neighbours.
Revised plans, which included a single one-bedroom apartment and six two-bedroom apartments, were recommended for approval by council planners.
At November’s meeting of the council’s Planning Committee, councillors agreed to defer the change of use and listed building consent applications to gather more information.
Following an appeal from the applicant, it has now been revealed that a final decision on the plans will be made by the Planning Inspectorate.
Planning officer, Peter Cunningham, updated councillors on the situation at Monday’s Planning Committee.
He told the meeting: “The next two applications at the Sir William Fox Hotel were deferred from the last committee to enable members to view the applications at the town hall.
“In response to this, the applicant has submitted an appeal in respect of both applications to the Planning Inspectorate of central government on grounds of non-determination.
“This means that the council as local planning authority no longer has the legal power to determine these applications.
“The Planning Inspectorate are now required to determine the applications through the planning appeal process.”
Non-determination applies when local planning authorities fail to determine a planning application within a statutory time-scale.
For the purposes of progressing the appeals, the Planning Committee were asked to provide recommendations for each planning application.
Councillors agreed to support recommendations from councillor Gladys Hobson to refuse both applications.
Key reasons for refusal included the impact on the Grade II-listed building and the ‘special character and historic settlement pattern of the area’ – alongside concerns about one of the proposed bedrooms not meeting the size required under the Housing Act.
Cllr Hobson noted the building’s “special architectural historical interest” and said that excavating the basement and removing several internal walls could have a “detrimental impact on this property and the adjoining properties.”
Comments from council officers in a report prepared for November’s committee meeting were also referenced – including some windows “not [being] accepted as a means of escape.”
Cllr Hobson added the committee should not “lose sight of the historical importance of this building to South Shields and the impact on our heritage.”
The Planning Committee’s representations will be sent to the Planning Inspectorate as part of the appeal process.