Plan to convert Castle Hotel into approved homeless shelter
06:00 april 5, 2022
Plans to convert a historic hotel into accommodation for the homeless have received unanimous approval from councillors.
The plan to convert the 12-bedroom Castle Hotel in Downham Market into seven apartments and a five-bed multi-occupancy house (HMO) was approved at a West Norfolk Borough Council planning committee meeting on Monday April 4.
The Grade II listed building will be managed by the local homeless charity Purfleet Trust.
In a letter to council, the claimant’s agent said the castle would provide “genuinely affordable accommodation for people ready to start running their own tenancies and other business with [the] continued support from Purfleet and with the benefit of an understanding owner.
Downham Market Borough Council had expressed concerns about the project damaging the ‘historic fabric’ of the hotel, but the agent insisted there would be ‘no loss of character to this building, except inside or outside”.
And they reassured local residents that the new use of the building would have little impact on neighbors.
“[Purfleet] wish to maintain a good relationship with the city and do not want their reputation to be tarnished by the behavior of customers.
“The owners are long-term locals and do not wish to be associated with poor development or damaging properties.”
The HMO will provide “relocation” housing for people who are likely to be employed and need short-term housing, before moving elsewhere to longer-term housing.
Conservative councilor Lesley Bambridge has revealed she has a surprising connection to the hotel.
“When I was very young, my aunt and uncle were the hoteliers who ran the Castle Hotel,” Ms Bambridge said.
“It was always an obvious building in the city center, and you can see in the pictures how run down it is.
“Something really needs to be done to update and give the impression [like] the substantial and good building that it is.
She remembers slipping on the banister of the hotel’s main staircase and said how much smaller he looked as an adult.
She added that she knew how well the Purfleet Trust looked after people, as well as how rigorously they ensured the rules were followed.
Independent adviser Jo Rust agreed: “I think it’s an incredible nomination and I have total and total respect for the work the Purfleets are doing.”