Hotel granted permission to host business units

A hotel owner who turned disused bedrooms into commercial units has been allowed to continue the venture after councillors said businesses needed to be supported.

Shropshire Council has approved the change of use application
Shropshire Council has approved the change of use application

The six en-suite rooms in the Forge at the Raven Hotel in Much Wenlock were transformed last summer in an effort to diversify the business in response to the pandemic.

A retrospective planning application for change of use of the building has now been granted by Shropshire Council’s southern planning committee, despite objections from neighbouring homeowners.

A statement from the town council was read to the committee, saying: “Much Wenlock Town Council objects to this planning application as councillors consider that this is an inappropriate location from which to operate businesses.

“There are concerns about noise nuisance and the impact on a residential area.”

Councillor David Turner, who represents Much Wenlock, said the application had caused “much concern” among neighbours, in particular around the inclusion of ‘retail’ in the proposed new uses.

“I recognise that we need to support businesses as much as we can, especially at this challenging time,” he said.

“While the conditions that have been attached to the officer’s recommendation go some way towards regulating issues which have been the cause of concern, there are outstanding matters.

“The use of the premises remains a concern in as much as ‘retail’ covers a very wide range of activities, some of them quite discrete and low traffic, and others that can be quite intrusive, either in terms of noise or odour.”

Councillor Turner said road safety was another concern, along with the windows of the first floor units overlooking neighbours’ gardens.

There were five objections from members of the public and two letters of support.

A statement from the applicant, Suzanne Campbell, was also read to the committee. She said businesses occupying the units in the Forge – which was previously a commercial building before being turned into overflow hotel accommodation – would complement the hotel’s offering.

Ms Campbell said: “It seems clear that a few Wenlock residents have become accustomed to the Raven working at half mast and any indication that it might fully utilise all its facilities to thrive might upset the apple cart.

“I ask these residents to consider the alternative – if we don’t allow businesses to work together, support each other and diversify, will we have any small businesses and hospitality venues left at the end of this pandemic?”

Planning officer Richard Fortune clarified that the proposed ‘retail’ use only applied to one of the six units. The rest will be restricted to office use and two units classed as ‘suis generis’ for a beauty clinic.

Councillors voted to grant retrospective planning permission for the change of use by nine votes to one.

Councillor Nick Hignett said: “As a businessman myself it is much better to see business premises kept in business use rather than changed to residential housing.”

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