A PLANNING inspector has ruled controversial plans to transform a former nursing home into student accommodation can go-ahead after all.
Hartlepool Borough Council’s planning committee had unanimously rejected plans to convert the former Mount Oswald Nursing Home, in Hutton Avenue, into 27-bed student accommodation.
But the developer successfully appealed, and work is set to start soon with the first students moving in from September next year.
The two-and-a-half storey building has been closed for the past five years and when it re-opens it will house students from the Cleveland College of Art and Design, Hartlepool Sixth Form College and Hartlepool College of Further Education.
Chris McHale, of Surrey-based developers McHale Property, said: “You can never be absolutely sure about anything, but the evidence supporting the application was overwhelming.”
Councillors rejected the plans back in February against officer recommendation after some residents said the development was “totally unsuitable” for a conversation area.
Committee members said the plan was a “threat” to the conservation area, that they had not been “convinced” by the plans and that it would be detrimental to the area.
There were also concerns about parking and security issues as well as noise and general disturbance, but the planning inspector disagreed and backed the developer’s plans.
A report said: “The inspector allowed the appeal concluding that the proposal would preserve the character of the conservation area and would not adversely affect highway safety.
“While there would be some implications for the living conditions of residents, the inspector was satisfied that these could be safeguarded through the use of conditions.”
Mr McHale said: “It was a travesty that it was thrown out in the first place.
“It is going to be available to all students and we are not just limiting ourselves to those from the Cleveland College of Art and Design.
“I am a great believer in Hartlepool and it is a shame that this development has been delayed.”
Mr McHale is from Leeds originally but says he has been investing in Hartlepool since 2002 and has a number of businesses and a large portfolio of properties.
He added that the development would offer students a “better level” of accommodation in Hartlepool.
The appeal decision was revealed at a recent meeting of the planning committee.
Members were told there had not been a claim for costs but the developer said he will be submitting a claim.
A council spokesman said: “Normally, a claim for costs is made during the appeal process but we are not aware that this occurred.
“It would now be down to the planning inspectorate to determine whether a claim for costs can be made at this stage.”
The planning permission includes alterations to windows, doors and roof lights and there will be a permanent warden in the 28-bedroom property.
Mount Oswald Nursing Home was open for 17 years, but closed in 2007.