EYE-CATCHING plans to breathe new life into a vacant historic building by converting it into a 14-room hotel, bar and restaurant have been approved — despite opposition from planners and community leaders.
South Derbyshire District Council planning committee backed proposals to change the use of the late 19th-century Melbourne Liberal Club, in Derby Road, after a last-ditch plea from Adam Devey-Smith, a relative of the applicant.
He challenged council officers’ conclusion that plans to introduce a large gable in the plane of the building’s front wall ‘would result in an increase in scale of the building that would dominate its context and harm the character of the conservation area’.
Mr Devey-Smith said without the gable, needed to facilitate lifts and stairs, he would be forced to lose two-and-a-half rooms — equivalent to a fifth of predicted revenue — from the hotel, adding: “It won’t be a viable business.” But Jim Hewlett, one of two Tories who represents Melbourne on the authority, said while he welcomed the restaurant plan, he was concerned about the gable and particularly worried about the overall effect on parking.
“It continues to be a problem that won’t go away and it’s our job to stop it getting worse or possibly improve it,” he said.
“I just don’t believe people will take the trouble to find the car park off High Street and carry their suitcases 200 metres to the hotel along that narrow pavement.
“Instead, they will drive to the hotel and try to park nearby.”
Councillor Hewlett claimed road rage incidents would increase as a result.
He was backed by fellow ward councillor John Harrison.
“I would like to see the applicant give consideration to alternative possibilities to creating off-street parking in the vicinity of the proposed restaurant and hotel and to pursue ways of overcoming the dominance of the building while retaining its attractiveness,” he said.
But the two councillors’ principal objection was dismissed by colleague Trevor Southerd, who represents the Church Gresley ward for Labour.
“Parking does not come into this application and nor should it,” he said.
Suggesting there was a lack of good hotels in the district, Councillor Southerd indicated the plan ‘did not seem that detrimental’ and suggested that ‘to refuse it would be a bit stupid’.
“It does not suit our much-revered heritage officer but to the man in the street it’s a vast improvement,” he said, winning backing from members including committee chairman Martyn Ford and vice-chairman Lisa Brown.