Agenda item

DM/23/02268/FPA - Masonic Hall, 25-26 Victoria Avenue, Bishop Auckland, DL14 7JH

Conversion of ground floor to a commercial space (Class E) and conversion of first, second and third floors into 10no. apartments (C3) with associated works.


The Committee considered a report of the Senior Planning Officer for the conversion of the ground floor of a property to a commercial space (Class E) and the conversion of the first, second and third floors into 10no. apartments (C3) with associated works (for copy see file of minutes). 


G Heron, Senior Planning Officer gave a detailed presentation that included a site location, site photographs, proposed elevation plans and proposed floor plan.  A site visit had taken place prior to the Committee meeting to enable Members to assess the impact of the proposed development and the relationship with their surroundings.  She explained that it was a stone and brick building near retail sites with two car parks within the vicinity and an additional public square and parking area that was being developed on brownfield land at the front.  It had been vacant for some time but historically it had been the Masonic Hall and then used as a function venue.  It was in a poor state of repair with several windows either broken or boarded up.  Within the proposal for ten apartments there would be commercial space on the ground floor for a potential art area. 


The Senior Planning Officer explained that there was to be bin and cycle storage within the red line boundary of the property. It was classed as a non-designated heritage site and Historic England felt that if approved the proposal would enhance the conservation area within Bishop Auckland. The development was not required to provide any affordable housing as it would provide vacant building credit.  An open space contribution was not being sought as after financial assessment it would render the scheme financially unviable if requested.  The property was in a highly sustainable location accessible by sustainable travel modes of walking, cycling, bus and train.  It was recommended that the application be approved subject to conditions set out in the report. 


As there were no registered speakers the Chair opened up the meeting for questions. 


Councillor E Adam referred to sustainability on page 59 of the report.  He queried why there had been no energy assessment carried out to meet policy 29.  If building regulation had changed to require new homes to produce less emissions, how could it exceed the requirements of policy 29.





The Senior Planning Officer responded to Councillor E Adam that the report had been drafted in error. There was separate legislation where there was no need for a condition to be imposed on the application as sustainability would be covered under the building regulations.  It was a typing error and the report should read that it would meet policy 29 not exceed it. In context the existing building was in the conservation area as a non-designated heritage site and as standard it did not propose EV charging points but had the benefit of bringing a building back into use so there were no real sustainable proposals for the wider scheme.


S Pilkington, Principal Planning Officer noted that the building had met some efficiency with the internal walls that had met policy requirement.


The Senior Planning Officer stated that in policy 15 there was to be a M4(2) requirement but due to the current state of building it was not M4(2) compliant but on balance concluded that policy 15 be flexi as evidence showed that the building brought harm to the Bishop Auckland conservation area.


The Principal Planning Officer advised that there would be duplication within the building regulations and it could be demonstrated that this could not be achieved due to fabric of building. There was a caveat existing that did not need M4(2) regulations.


The Chair opened up the meeting to debate.


Councillor M Stead loved the application and thought it was great.  He moved to approve the application.


Councillor S Zair mentioned that the property was in his division and it was great to see the building being brought back into use.  He noted that there had been adverse comments on social media concerning the state of the building.  He seconded the application to be approved.


Councillor S Quinn agreed with both Councillors Stead and Zair that the building was in a sorry state and it would be beneficial for the town to be restored.


Upon a vote being take it was unanimously:




That the application be APPROVED subject to the conditions set out in the report.

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