The fate of a former hotel that has been derelict for almost 20 years will be decided at a public inquiry.
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Mr Sajid Javid, has called-in the planning approval for the demolition of Newark’s former Robin Hood Hotel, which means the matter will go to a public inquiry.
Newark and Sherwood District Council granted permission for the Grade II-listed building, on Lombard Street, to be knocked down and replaced with shops and a 66-bedroom Travelodge.
Members also referred the application to the National Planning Casework Unit, which decided to send it to Mr Javid for a decision.
The 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 at the centre of a debate among those who believe it could be restored and those who say it is an eyesore and should be replaced.
The MP for Newark, Mr Robert Jenrick, who asked Mr Javid to consider calling in the application, said: “The fate of the Robin Hood has been beyond parody.
“Public opinion is divided on how to sort it out, with many wanting it gone, but everyone agrees that this mess has despoiled the town for too long.
“I think this is the right decision by Sajid Javid, as whichever way it goes, the chain of events that led us to the present situation will be aired in public. The arguments for demolition and for restoration will be heard by an independent expert and a decision will be made.”
The buildings are owned by MF Strawson, which wants them to be demolished and replaced with the shops and Travelodge.
Mr Michael Knapton, chairman of Newark Civic Trust, welcomed news of the public inquiry.
“It is good news from our point of view that it is going to a public inquiry,” he said.
“There are lots of questions that haven’t been answered as well as they could have been.”
'Buildings of national importance'
Mr Knapton was pleased an independent inspector would decide the case.
“We don’t know what the inquiry will focus on so it is difficult for us to pre-empt that and decide how we are going to approach things,” he said.
“We are opposed to the demolition of listed buildings because they are buildings of national importance.”
Mr Knapton said the proposed new hotel would have a negative impact on Newark Conservation Area.
“We oppose the demolition and we oppose the building of the Travelodge,” he said.
“That isn’t to say we wouldn’t be hoping for something to be built on that site, but we are hoping for something of better quality that is more befitting of Newark.”
Nottinghamshire Building Preservation Trust wants to preserve the buildings and had proposed turning them into three suites of offices in an estimated £1m project.
Secretary Mr David Atkins said: “We hope a public inquiry will decide it shouldn’t be knocked down and we can begin negotiation with the owners to find a solution.
“I don’t know what could be a fairer way to decide this because everyone will have an opportunity to state their case and we will have an arbiter who we can all trust to come to a sensible decision.”
Banks Long and Co, planning consultants for MF Strawson, was unavailable for comment.