Controversial windows approved at Hartlepool's former Alma pub building, paving the way for B&B, bar and restaurant development
Proposals for window works to help bring an iconic Hartlepool building back into use have been given the stamp of approval – despite concerns from council planning officers.
This week, Hartlepool Borough Council’s Planning Committee were asked to decide on plans to replace all windows at The New Alma in Whitby Street.
The building is currently empty and in a state of disrepair, although proposals were approved earlier this year to convert it into a bar and restaurant, with a bed and breakfast above, subject to planning conditions.
As part of the revamp, businessman Rajib Malik submitted an application to replace the timber casement and sliding sash windows with uPVC double glazing of the same style.
However a report prepared by Hartlepool Borough Council’s planning department recommended the plans for refusal.
Concerns included the replacement of traditional materials with modern materials leading to a “loss of character” of the former hotel and impacts on the wider conservation area.
The report also noted a concern raised by the applicant that the cost of replacing the windows in timber would be “substantially” more than in uPVC.
It added that this was “not a material planning consideration that would justify the harm identified to the heritage asset.”
The application was presented to the council’s planning committee at Hartlepool Civic Centre on Wednesday, August 25.
Burn Valley ward councillor, Jonathan Brash, said there should be no criticism levelled at planning officers for their recommendation and that planning guidance needed to be reviewed to “give officers the opportunity to be flexible.”
Speaking in support of the plans, Cllr Brash added that the proposed windows would make the building more energy efficient while allowing for a sustainable development regenerating an iconic building and creating jobs.
During debate, some committee members questioned the impact of the proposed windows on the Church Street Conservation Area and noted that other buildings already had modern materials.
Others said that refusing the application would halt plans to revive a prominent derelict building and could impact on wider regeneration efforts in Hartlepool.
Planning committee member, councillor Brenda Harrison, stressed the importance of bringing the building back into use.
“This is an iconic building in the town within the centre, it may be in a conservation area but apart from that, people really regard this as a historic monument to the past,” she said.
“It really is a great thing that it’s being brought back into some kind of good state, so I do trust that this will happen and I would be very much in favour of this.”
Applicant Mr Malik, speaking at the meeting, said replacing all windows with wooden frames would not be financially viable within the existing budget for the building’s restoration.
But he agreed that he was willing to progress with a design that would, as near as possible, reflect the original style of the windows.
Councillor Moss Boddy said he trusted in council officers to come to a solution with the applicant over the window designs.
“What we have got to do is box clever, yes we want this to look as accurately and be as accurately representative of the reasons for the conservation area,” he said.
“What we don’t want to do is have a derelict building in the middle of our conservation area, how does that enhance it?
“What we also want to do is bring vibrancy and industry and jobs to Hartlepool, what we don’t want to do is give the message that we don’t actually want that because we will find a way to stop it.
“It’s a very narrow tightrope however we can do it because we can actually condition the approval to ensure that, as far as we possibly can, we will have a development that reflects the needs of the conservation area but not go down every last full stop, comma and exclamation mark in doing so.”
Following discussion, the planning committee voted against the recommendations of planning officers and approved the plans for uPVC windows with a majority vote.
This was subject to a condition that further details and discussions on window designs would be delegated to the local authority’s planning and development manager.