The former Robin Hood Hotel.
The former Robin Hood Hotel.

Britain’s oldest conservation body has objected to the planned demolition of a protected building in Newark town centre.

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings spoke out against plans to knock down the Grade II-listed Robin Hood Hotel on Lombard Street.

Newark and Sherwood District Council has granted permission for the building to be knocked down and replaced with retail units and a 66-bedroom Travelodge.

The application has been be referred to the National Planning Casework Unit, which could send it to communities and local government secretary Mr Sajid Javid for a final decision.

The society described the proposed Travelodge as bland and said the importance of the Robin Hood Hotel had been under-estimated.

It said repair problems at the 18th Century building had been over-estimated.

The society said it believed there could still be a positive and sustainable future for what it described as a unique group of significant buildings.

Although the site has been unused since 1999, the society said its inspections five years ago concluded the building was in a fair condition and that repair and re-use was achievable.

The Nottinghamshire Building Preservation Trust (NBPT)  was awarded a grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund to explore alternative uses for the set of buildings.

Mr David Atkins, honorary secretary of the trust, said: “The building group provides the only remaining example of two-storey 18th Century town houses left in Newark (that were) built at a time of expansion after the removal of the town walls.

“Conservation and future use are still an option, which NBPT is anxious to deliver.”
The trust estimated the conservation of the site and its conversion to offices would cost around £750,000, but it said that could be met by a Heritage Enterprise Grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

'Not a worthy replacement'

Emma Lawrence, the Society For The Protection Of Ancient Buildings’ head of casework, said: “We believe the loss of the buildings in this important corner location would have a serious and detrimental effect on Newark’s wider townscape and on the conservation area.

“The bland modern offering of the hotel is certainly not a worthy replacement.
“The three buildings that make up the Robin Hood Hotel are rare examples of elegant town houses of the 18th and 19th centuries.

“These would have been incredibly fashionable dwellings.

“They show the changing tastes that moved up from the south of England during this period and they also showcase local materials — red brick and pantile roofs.”

Emma Lawrence said the buildings should be cherished.

“They should be an asset to the town, something that Newark is, rightly, proud of,” she said.

“It is so sad and short-sighted to see them left to decline.

“Buildings like the Robin Hood Hotel chart the social history, fashions and changing fortunes of a distinct area, and the story can continue if these buildings are respectfully adapted for modern use.”

Mr Chris Healy, a Newark builder and society member, said: “The interior of the middle townhouse recalls the writings of Jane Austen.

“It is such a shame that while the literature of Austen continues to be enjoyed and valued, the buildings and settings that truly bring the spirit of that age alive are being allowed to decay.”

The Robin Hood Hotel, once one of Newark’s finest, closed in 1999 and has been empty since.

It was partially demolished in 2010 and three Grade II-listed 18th Century townhouses are all that remain.

It has been the centre of debate from those who feel it could be restored and those who feel it is an eyesore and should be knocked down and replaced.