Empty Walsall offices to become flats after 23-bedroom HMO plan is ditched

A historic building once controversially earmarked to become a 23-bedroom home for several people will now provide new apartments on a gateway into Walsall town centre.

Disused offices in Bradford Street, Walsall. PIC: Google Street View
Disused offices in Bradford Street, Walsall. PIC: Google Street View

Planners have given the go-ahead to developer James Wadsworth to convert three buildings on Bradford Street into five two and one-bedroom flats.

Two of the three buildings, which were previously used as offices but have sat empty for more than a decade, are Grade II Listed buildings.

Previously, an application to develop the properties into a 23-bed house of multiple occupancy (HMO) drew strong criticism from neighbouring businesses and residents.

A petition read: “A 23-bed house in a conservation area is unsuitable. There is already alcohol, drug and begging issues on Bradford Street.

“There are used needles, anti-social behaviour and prostitution on the street. We are constantly being asked for money, cigarettes.

“We the residents/tenants/business owners of Bradford Street take the view that our businesses will be adversely affected if this goes ahead. Our staff and clients will be affected and will mean a loss of trade.”

The plans were then revised to create a 16-bedroom house but this still attracted criticisms from neighbours worried about anti-social behaviour and concerns about safety.

Despite completely changing the plans to flats, this still drew six objections raising issues about crime and anti-social behaviour, drug problems, noise, poor quality tenants and calls to retain the buildings for commercial use.

But on the issues of crime and anti-social behaviour, planning officers said: “No evidence has been provided that clearly demonstrates any future occupiers of the current proposal for flats will bring these concerns to the locality.

“There is no evidence to suggest there would be anti-social behaviour by any future occupiers of the proposed five apartments.”

Agents Lapworth Architects said: “The proposed new apartments seek to utilise the derelict commercial offices to provide much needed housing in a town centre location.

“The proposal aims to provide a positive enhancement to the properties and thus the local area. The proposals have been chosen to be sensitive to the history of the site and site surroundings and take cues from the architecture that exists.”

“The property was originally built as part of a terrace of grand town houses. Residential use is essentially reverting to the original intended purpose of the building.

“The current offices are small and have been vacant for some time. Due to the absence of use the Listed Building has begun to deteriorate with evidence of water ingress and damp.

“Due to the limited floor space and steep staircases, the building is considered unlikely to meet the needs of modern office requirements which is demonstrated by the lack of occupiers for the last 14 years.”

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