Shropshire Star

‘Vibrant’ Whitchurch café can stay open as retrospective permission granted

A café which opened last year in a former Whitchurch bank has been given the green light for its conversion after it was carried out without listed building consent.

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JoLi, Whitchurch. Photo: Google

JoLi Spanish Cafe is based in the Old Town Hall, in Whitchurch’s High Street, which had been vacant for a year following the closure of the Barclays branch in July 2021.

An application for listed building consent for the work has now been approved by Shropshire Council, after it was lodged retrospectively last month.

The applicant’s agent had said they were unaware listed building consent was required for the change of use, which has included the addition of an extraction fan, signage and Spanish-inspired artwork recently painted on the Tuscan columns to the front of the building.

Whitchurch Town Council supported the application but said some of the signage that had been added to the building was out of keeping with its setting.

The town council said: “Whilst the development has been a very welcome addition to our High Street, and indeed very popular, we raise concerns about ‘inappropriate’ signage, on the corner of this building specifically, which is out of character with neighbouring properties and the associated conservation area, recently highlighted in enforcement action in relation to the development.”

A report by planning officer Ruth Hitchen says the café was asked to remove some of the “cluttered” signs, which it agreed to, and the application was amended accordingly.

The report says: “The case officer also requested that the food picture signs be removed from the plinth on the frontage, directly under the windows, as these too appear incongruous with the historic nature of the building and interfere with its architectural interest.”

One member of the public, Professor John Kersey, expressed support for the plans, saying the conversion had been done “with full respect to its historic fabric and aesthetic”.

He said: “The conversion produces a pleasing and harmonious effect and enhances a new and vibrant business that has become a genuine asset to Whitchurch town centre. I strongly support this application.”

The application received no objections.

Ms Hitchen’s report concludes that the alterations to the building “have been so light, the proposal causes no harm to the significance of the listed building or the conservation area”.

It adds: “The conversion of the building to provide a new viable use is considered to be a public benefit.

“It will result in the building being maintained into the future, thus making a positive contribution to both the listed building itself and the Whitchurch conservation area as a whole.”

The Grade Two listed building dates back to 1718, and was the town hall until it became a bank in the 20th century.