Brentwood hotel housing plans rejected despite residents’ support

An application to convert an iconic hotel into dozens of homes has been refused by planners because of its impact on the green belt.

But the application to develop the De Rougemont Manor hotel site in Brentwood into 45 homes was only just rejected after planning chairman Councillor Thomas Bridge – who had initially voted against a motion to reject the plans leaving it tied – subsequently used his deciding vote for rejection.

The committee had previously heard support for the housing plans from David Greest, who has lived nearby for more than 35 years and whose experiences of the hotel had been punctuated with disturbances from noisy revellers leaving late at night.

He said: “As one of the residents closest to the proposed development my wife and I, along with other residents close by, are among the 39 residents who have written in support of the proposals.

“When the hotel opened for business there were disturbances for local residents from party goers, functions and weddings late at night with cars and taxis accelerating away from the hotel.

“This we will not miss.

“The land earmarked for new houses is currently a car park, not pristine green belt.

“It’s covered in tarmac and hardstanding. there is a mix of cars, vans and containers and it is screened form the road by a parameter wall.

“It will not be intrusive at all.

“The area is unnoticeable from passing traffic, especially with planned additional planting and landscaping.

“It will also be a bonus for local residents to have access to the garden and nature trail.

“And all residents will welcome the developers funding two speed reduction signs which are long overdue.”

He added: “Local residents need some certainty and closure over what happens here going forward.

“It is a sympathetic proposal with more green space, less traffic movements, hidden from the road and will continue the Heseltine legacy to the village. The scheme is real positive for the area.”

Officers had ‘recommended the plans be refused on the basis on a number of grounds – including that it would be inappropriate development in the green belt, and that it would materially detract from its openness.

The plans detailed a total of 18 homes created through the conversion, remodelling and extension of the main hotel building, four from conversion of the stable building and 23 would be new build homes.

The hotel closed due to COVID restrictions in March 2020, reopened in July 2020, closed for a month in November 2020, opened for a fortnight in December 2020 before closing again to reopen in May 2021. It is currently in operation.

Councillor Jay Laplain (Lib Dem, Warley) who sits on the planning committee and who proposed the motion for refusal said there was merit in much of the application but agreed the application would harm the area.

He said: “While Great Warley is not a parish it is under the conservation area and is supported by the Great Warley Conservation Society.

“Their objections are quite clear and that would carry a great deal of weight.

“The report is quite clear that it is does not offer enough merit to become a special circumstance.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter