THE owners of a historic Middlewich building are facing an uphill battle to keep part of it in use as accommodation.

The Lee family began work on converting the first floor of The Alhambra, in Wheelock Street, into a four-bedroom apartment in December 2018 and completed it last June.

But a retrospective planning application for the work was turned down by Cheshire East Council last December, with officers concerned about a lack of natural light coming into the new home.

Now, the Lee family has launched a second attempt at securing the go-ahead from the local authority for the conversion.

In making a decision last December, CEC officers insisted the location was acceptable for a new apartment, that the conversion would not harm the Middlewich conservation area and that there would be no parking or highways issues as a result of the work.

However, officers insisted there would not be ‘a sufficient level of residential amenity due to lack of natural light, outlook and ventilation’ because of the layout of the windows – meaning the scheme would be contrary to the council’s local plan.

A CEC report said: “Internally the layout is unusual in that it contains a linear L-shaped living and dining area. This area would have no fenestration to provide natural light or ventilation.

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“Instead, the occupants rely on the glazing within the access door at the rear and via a storeroom to the front elevation which is separated from the living and dining area via an internal wall and obscure glazed door and window.”

The first floor of the Alhambra has a chequered history from the past 20 years, including separate spells as a bed and breakfast and a wine bar.

In a letter attached to the latest planning application, Michael Gresty, representing the Lee family, said: “In 2003 we applied successfully for a five-bedroom, bed and breakfast operation on the first floor.

“This business, whist in the initial stage was reasonably successful, now does not warrant expenditure to upgrade the facilities.

“In 2007 we obtained planning permission for the Lee family for part use of the first floor for a wine bar.

“Unfortunately, whilst initially very successful, it attracted the younger element and possibly fuelled and aggravated the late-night drinking seen in Middlewich. This operation was closed by the authorities.”

The wine bar, known as Cassie’s, had a late licence from April 2009 to January 2010.

But police responded to six incidents of violence during that time and CEC refused to grant a fresh late licence to the venue in April 2011, after it was rebranded as Bar 33.

Downstairs in the historic building, The Alhambra Chinese restaurant stopped trading in January 2018, and Italian restaurant Il Padrino opened its doors last October.

To view the apartment plans and comment before the deadline on Thursday, search for ‘20/0274C’ on CEC’s planning website.