Plans to revamp a Regency villa in Leamington and turn it into 33 student bedsits and studio flats have been blocked because the development would see an historic service wing demolished and replaced with a larger extension which was considered out of scale.
More than 50 letters had been sent in support of the scheme at 24 Kenilworth Road - one of a row of similar properties dating back nearly 200 years, many of which are Grade II listed. The application site is included in Warwick District Council’s local list of heritage assets.
But councillors at this week’s planning committee were also told that there was opposition to the development with objections from Royal Leamington Spa Town Council, the local ward councillor, 26 neighbours and two council departments including the conservation officer.
A statement from planning agent Andrew Black was read out at the meeting outlining problems encountered when dealing with the council.
It said: “The application in front of you this evening is the result of several years of work to explore the future of this site.
“The site is currently occupied by a licensed HMO and is in a significant state of disrepair and in need of substantial investment and upgrade. The site has been used for student accommodation since 2000 and prior to that was a nursing home. It is the intention of the applicant to bring forward an innovative and bespoke scheme of purpose-built student accommodation on the site.
“A previous application made in 2020 was withdrawn. The applicant made significant changes to the scheme and has attempted to work with officers and stakeholders but has been frustrated at the lack of engagement.”
Mr Black added that a planning barrister had been consulted and his view was that the reasons for refusing planning permission were ill-founded.
He said: “While it is recognised that a number of residents object to the proposal, this is far outweighed by the substantial support across the town for the application. A refusal would mean that the building would continue to degrade and be used as an unrestricted HMO. This is not considered to provide any benefit to local residents or the wider area.”
While councillors accepted that the revamp proposed by developers Cloister Living would improve the site - which is in Leamington’s conservation area - they voted in line with their officers’ recommendation and refused permission.
Cllr James Kennedy (Green, Kenilworth Park Hill) said: “Clearly it is a site that needs improving, I think we are all in agreement about that. But we shouldn’t just grant to improve the site if it doesn’t conform with our policies.”