The demolition of the remains of the derelict Robin Hood Hotel would be almost without precedent, said Newark’s MP as he urged the Government to call in the planning permission.
In a letter, Mr Robert Jenrick implored the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, to call-in the decisions to allow the hotel’s demolition and replace it with a Travelodge.
Mr Jenrick was successful in having the applications called-in and they will now be determined at a public inquiry, which starts on May 15 and is scheduled to last 12 days.
His representations are among documents relating to Mr Javid’s decision released to the Advertiser by the Department for Communities and Local Government following a request under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 — legislation similar to the Freedom of Information Act.
A request for the entire file was refused because it was more than 500 pages but, after a revised request, the summary and original letter from Mr Jenrick requesting the call-in were released.
In his letter to Mr Javid, Mr Jenrick wrote: “Newark and Sherwood District Council voted to approve the demolition of a Grade II listed building, known as the Robin Hood Hotel, a group of 18th Century houses, within the conservation area of the historic town of Newark. I am contacting you to implore you to call this application in and reverse this very poor decision.
“Allowing a developer to demolish a listed building in a conservation area of a town such as Newark, which has important architectural heritage, to be replaced by an ugly, low-quality modern building (a Travelodge hotel) is almost without precedent and must be stopped.
“MF Strawson Ltd bought the Robin Hood Hotel along with the former Newark and Sherwood District Council-owned Potterdyke carpark 14 years ago, in 2003. It then put together a development of the site that saw an Asda supermarket built, a large carpark, a doctors’ surgery and several shops.
“It was a very substantial development, not particularly sympathetic itself, and from which one would expect a developer to make sufficient profit to make good on a minor condition of the planning consent — that they would restore the Robin Hood Hotel by November 2015 and turn it into offices, apartments, shops or some other sustainable use, protecting this historic building for the future.
“They claimed that they had not made so much profit from the development and that the Robin Hood’s restoration would cost far more than anticipated. I suggest these were simply the risks a developer takes and not costs to be borne by the public.”
Mr Jenrick said the building had fallen into such a state of disrepair and the site was so monstrously unsightly that many residents concluded demolition would be progress of sorts.
He said the district council must also explain its conduct in the matter, having had the ability to enforce Strawson’s commitment to restoration.
'The design of the building is contemporary and appropriate'
The council’s stance, contained in the Department for Communities and Local Government planning casework unit summary, states: “NSDC recognises that the proposals will result in the total loss of a Grade II listed heritage asset, causing substantial harm to both it and the existing character and appearance of the conservation area.
“However, they point out that, unlike earlier failed proposals, an end user has already been secured and the hotel scheme will generate £5.5m of investment, 62 jobs and spin-off benefits to the overnight visitor and tourist economy.
“NSDC also considers the design of the building is contemporary and appropriate, fitting well with the wider adjacent development and that it achieves substantial public benefits to outweigh the harm.”
The summary states Newark Town Council considers that, due to the long-standing derelict state of the site, there is “no option but to demolish the listed buildings and it has reluctantly decided not to object to the applications.”
Historic England supported the call-in.
It wrote: “It remains our view that the total loss of the Grade II listed building will result in substantial harm to this designated heritage asset and harm to the conservation area’s special architectural and historic interest — in this historically significant location, demolition of the Robin Hood Hotel will further erode and harm the historic townscape.
“It will remove evidence of how the area developed architecturally and socially.”
The remains of the Robin Hood are three 18th Century townhouses at 1 to 3 Lombard Street that were listed in 1971.
An inspector will hear evidence from all sides at the inquiry before forwarding the outcome to Mr Javid, who will issue his decision.
In response to Mr Jenrick saying the district council had questions to answer over its role its leader, Mr Roger Blaney, said: “Planning law is complex and contractual law is complex, and perhaps not all lawyers appreciate that. We have acted upon the best legal advice throughout as to the level of action we can take and the costs involved in taking certain action.
“We have been informed by the best legal advice throughout this lengthy process.”
The agents for MF Strawson, Banks Long & Co did not respond to the Advertiser’s request for comment.
Extensive work to the derelict Robin Hood Hotel should have been completed by January 13 this year under a legal notice served on the owners by Newark and Sherwood District Council, the Advertiser has learned.
The council served the notice in January 2017, requiring an “extensive list of works” to the exterior of the listed building, including the removal of all vegetation, replacement of rotten timber, broken and missing glazing, guttering, piping, tiling and flashing and repainting of the structure.
Details of the notice were contained in the summary of relevant information that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, used to inform his decision to call-in the decision for the demolition of the Robin Hood and its replacement with a 66-bedroom Travelodge.
It was released to the Advertiser by Mr Javid’s department under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.
The summary said the notice should have been complied with in full by January 13.
The leader of the district council, Mr Roger Blaney, told the Advertiser some work had been carried out in response to the notice, but not enough to satisfy the council.
“The district council has further written to MF Strawson,” he said.
“We recognise there are works that need to be done and are pressing MF Strawson over the scale of the works to be undertaken and for the timescale for them to be undertaken.”
The agents for MF Strawson, Banks Long & Co, did not respond to the Advertiser’s request for comment.