Vandalised and arson-hit Grantham social club to be replaced by 15 flats after concerns over access highlighted
Plans for 15 flats to replace a former social club on a town centre street have been approved.
The flats will be built on the site of the Westgate Social Club, behind 95 Westgate, which has been empty for several years and the focus of vandalism and numerous arson attacks in recent years.
The flats will include eight one-bed single-storey apartments, six two-bedroom single-storey apartments and one one-bedroom duplex apartment.
Owners of nearby properties spoke at a meeting of the South Kesteven District Council's planning committee yesterday (Thursday) to complain about residents of the flats being able to use their right of way.
Jade Meadows-White, speaking on behalf of Pam Meadows, of Grantham Property, told the meeting that Mrs Meadows is the owner of 95 Westgate. She said that Mrs Meadows did not object in principle to the conversion, but she was concerned about rights of way.
She added: "The deeds reveal there is no right of way over the passageway or walkway for 95 Westgate afforded to the now historic social club. The deeds in no way suggest the entitlement to use the passageway as a public thoroughfare from Greyfriars to Westgate and the property was not built or designed to accommodate a thoroughfare. The passageway is only 32 inches wide at its narrowest point and 38 inches wide at its best and therefore not wide enough to sensibly allow wheelchair or pushchair access or in fact any significant pedestrian traffic.
"There is also an eight inch step at the beginning of the passageway which, if removed, would threaten the Grade 2 listed status of the property. As the occupier of number 95, Mr James Meadows, with the permission of Mrs Pam Meadows, ensures that the passageway is locked every evening to enhance safety and cleanliness to both his business and the flat above. Previous to this the passageway was frequently vandalised and used for urination and drug taking."
Richard Elvin, of Elvin Properties, owners of 98 and 99 Westgate, told the committee that access to the proposed flats from Greyfriars was potentially dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists because most of it was not paved. He said: "To permit the main access route for pedestrians and cyclists over an unpaved surface and without footpath construction to modern standards, one might say this is positively Victorian."
The meeting was told by planning officers that rights of way were not a consideration for the planning committee and these would have to be agreed privately.
The applicant, Rahul Patel, told the meeting the flats will rejuvenate this area of Grantham. He said: "It is in disrepair and we have tried to secure the site. There is vandalism and there has been arson on the site as well. We want to make sure there is more accommodation for people who work in the town centre.
"With regards to the passageway, that is a legal issue and there is right of way. The social club has been there since the war and people have been using it so there are no issues with people using it. There is access round the back for wheelchair and pushchair access. Landscaping will be provided for footpaths and cyclists."
Mr Patel said gated access to the passageway, as asked for by the police, would not be a problem.
Grantham Councillor Charmaine Morgan said the application posed a dilemma. She said: "We do have a desperate need for the type of housing that this is providing and it also complies with our requirement asking people to live in the town centre, in and around the shops. So in many respects it ticks lots of boxes. But I have got concerns about the practicality and whether there are solutions. If we make a decision today we are being asked to ignore the access issues."
Councillor David Bellamy said any access issues would have to be resolved before construction could start.
Nine members voted in favour of the application with one against and one abstention.