A CLAIM that a cheap hotel has been operating illegally in a listed building in Homerton will be assessed by Hackney councillors this week. The planning subcommittee is due tonight to decide whether to accept its officers’ recommendation to grant planning permission for change of use to a 25-bedroom hotel with en-suite bathrooms.
Opponents, mostly local residents, say that the former convent at 100 Hassett Road, Hackney E9 5SJ, is a grade II listed building and has been operating as a budget hotel, Silkhouse, for almost two years with neither planning permission for change of use nor listed building consent.
The protest group, which Tweets as @E9_Residents, says: “Nevertheless they [the owners] have been advertising the hotel on line and letting rooms.”
The group criticises the council, adding: “Despite issuing an enforcement notice, Hackney has amazed us all by turning around and announcing they recommend planning permission is now granted. Homerton does not want or need a hotel; it is identified as a target area for residential growth and Hassett Road is entirely residential.”
A protest petition has attracted almost 200 signatures.
Silkhouse is advertised on many websites and offers a range of facilities that seems extraordinary for a two-star hotel. Among them are indoor and outdoor pools, whirlpool bath, sauna, steam room, spa and massage. The hotel is within walking distance of the London Olympics events this summer.
Loving Dalston put the protesters’ allegations to Adil Mir, one of the owners. It also asked, if planning permission was not sought before opening the business, why not?
Mark Thackeray, the hotel’s planning consultant, late today replied: “The lawful or unlawful nature of the use is not, as you [the opposition] suggest, clear-cut, simply because the council, under pressure from a few local residents, thinks that it may be. The legality or otherwise of a hotel, compared with its previous use, which in planning terms was a form of hostel, is an issue that is currently before the Planning Inspectorate for determination.
“This matter cannot, therefore be prejudged. If Mr Mir’s contention, that there has been no material change of use, is proved correct, then the enforcement notice will be quashed and his decision to use the premises without seeking planning permission will be upheld.
“As to the question of need for a hotel in the area, the council has no evidence, one way or the other, as to the demand for or supply of new hotel rooms in the borough. It therefore becomes a commercial decision, measured against the Government’s guidance on new accommodation for tourists. This is contained in the Good Practice Guide on Planning for Tourism and the guidance has been properly followed.
As for works requiring listed building consent, the council had not served a listed-building enforcement notice.
Thackeray said: “The conservation officer supports the application, having regard to its sympathetic treatment of the building, and the planning officer is recommending that a hotel is a most appropriate alternative use for a building of this character and with this history”.
“The ongoing dispute between the hotel and a small group of residents is unfortunate, but it should not be allowed to detract from the planning merits of a very positive proposal to keep the building in active and appropriate use.”
* Hackney council’s planning sub-committee meets today Monday 14 May 2012 at Hackney Town Hall (above), Mare Street E8 1EA, at 6.30pm.
* See news update at this site