City council reject 27-bed shared housing scheme at former MJB “doss house”

MJB Group Beeches Hotels. Bristol House in Unthank Road. Picture: Denise Bradley

MJB Group Beeches Hotels. Bristol House in Unthank Road. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: copyright: Archant 2014

Members of Norwich City Council planning committee have rejected a plan to turn the former MJB hotel at Bristol House into a 27-bed HMO (House in Multiple Occupation).

Last September Ben James, the new owner of the former MJB hotels at Bristol House and The Lodge on Unthank Road announced he would be investing £600,000 in each property.

While under the ownership of the MJB group, both properties had been the source of numerous complaints about drug taking and prostitution.

But Mr James said that would change, as he was looking to attract a 'different type' of clientele.

Plans to convert the building into a 27 bedroom home with a gym, cinema room and communal areas were brought to the city council on Thursday but was turned down on the basis it did not provide high quality amenity for residents.

'My fear is we will be replacing what was a doss house with a low quality HMO,' said Green councillor Denise Carlo.

'My fundamental issue is the number of people living there. I would rather see this building made into self contained flats.'

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But Mark Phillpot, agent for the developer, Estateeducation, said they wanted to draw a line under the history of the building.

He said: 'Members will be aware of the long and rather chequered history of this site. The new owner has set out to draw a clean line under the former ownership and put an end to the troubles of the past and give a positive contribution to this part of Unthank Road.'

Labour's Karen Davis, for Town Close, spoke against the application.

'I was told the applicant did not wish to meet me face to face so I had to come here with my concerns instead,' she said.

'Residents are very concerned about noise issues and Town Close doesn't need this type of housing. It needs affordable housing, not create a mono-culture on Unthank Road.'

Planning officer Mark Dunthorne warned members they could not let what they thought of the developer or the former owner, Tony Burlingham, 'cloud their judgement'.

They agreed some form of management was needed for the property, but chose to reject the application by six votes to five rather than defer it.