Former seafront hotel for war veterans could become private apartments
- Credit: Google
A Weston seafront hotel that gave respite to war veterans and their families could be converted into 45 private apartments.
Somerset House opened in 2007 at a cost of £6.7million but was up for sale for £1.2million last year after the Royal British Legion decided to “refocus its resources”.
Now the Bristol-based PG Group has submitted plans to turn the Beach Road venue into one and two-bedroom apartments – but none of them would be affordable.
Its application says: “Whilst we acknowledge that the change of use would result in the loss of a short stay boarding and welfare facility, the reconfiguration enables the building to be put back into a more viable use where there is no demand for the now vacant building. The building has now been vacant and marketed since the early part of 2020.”
PG Group said it is a sustainable location with public transport nearby so the development will provide space for 28 cars and 80 bikes.
The building has been vacant since it closed last year.
As a break centre, the four-storey, 47-room Somerset House offered the opportunity for past members of the armed forces and their families to stay at little or no cost.
The Royal British Legion said last year it had taken the “difficult decision” to close its break centre service, which had 150 staff across four sites, 35 of them in Weston.
Speaking last January, Councillor Mark Canniford said he was disappointed the charity had “clearly made the decision without considering all the options”, arguing it could charge those who could afford it a minimal fee to stay at Somerset House.
Announcing its decision, the Royal British Legion said: “The legion must refocus its resources to address changes in the armed forces community, as the type of support needed is growing increasingly complex with people requiring help across multiple issues.”
It said the move could save it £6million a year.
Within months of the closure of Somerset House, the RAF Association said it would be shutting the 18-bed Flowerdown House next door.
It said the coronavirus pandemic forced its temporary closure and a 40 per cent drop in income meant it could no longer afford to continue operating.
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The YMCA Dulverton Group has now signed a lease to use the site as a housing, training and learning facility for young people at risk of becoming homeless.
The Legion’s four break centres, in Weston, Southport, East Yorkshire and Northern Ireland, were marketed by Colliers. It clearly expected interest from hoteliers, saying the properties would lend themselves to a “boutique style of operation” and said there was an opportunity to capitalise on the staycation market.
North Somerset Council will consider the plans for the site.