Rock House, in Old Hill, Tettenhall, was for many years the Express & Star and Shropshire Star’s external training base, which saw hundreds of journalists passing through its doors – many going on to achieve national success in their field.
In more recent years the former Midland News Association building – which dates back to the 1720s – was occupied by Sharratts Solicitors and latterly by Rock House Dental Practice, before becoming vacant.
Now Wolverhampton-based Deol Developers Ltd, which specialises in transforming unused or derelict properties, is seeking planning approval to convert the premises into eight one and two-bedroom apartments.
A design and access statement from TNM Architecture that accompanies the plans states: “The proposed work to change the use from office accommodation to housing will be contained within the existing overall structure and will not entail any external extensions.
“Due to the existing changes in level and the need to minimise the alterations to the external facades, it has not been feasible to make significant improvements for safe and convenient access for people with disabilities.”
The applicants said they had received positive feedback on the proposals which would “reintroduce life into a building of historical importance which is in need of investment to bring (it) back to former glory whilst not falling into disrepair”.
Development of the site, which currently has 13 parking spaces, will also see this number increased to 21, with access available to Tettenhall Road.
The house, a five-bay red brick building originally providing accommodation over three floors, was built by Francis Smith between 1720-30. In 1920 the annexe was donated to the Roman Catholic Church for use as a chapel and community centre until 1965.
By the early 1970s the building had been left empty for a number of years and was extensively vandalised and almost derelict before being restored with the aid of an improvement grant. It was later acquired by the Midland News Association for use as a training facility.
A heritage and archaeology report conducted by Crestwood Environmental Ltd – also submitted with the apllication – said: “The complete staircase is showing signs of age and heavy use, possibly associated with Rock House being used as commercial premises.
“The main staircase is typical of a building of this period in the sense that it is located to the rear of the property and originally accessed from the main hall.”
In its report, DEOL Developments Ltd added: “The proposals also seek to reinstate the basement windows to Old Hill, which have been blocked up when the ground levels have been raised in previous alterations.
“The design work demonstrates that the special architectural and historical interest of the building, including its setting, will not be adversely affected by the change of use.”
Wolverhampton Council planners are set to consider the proposals.