Plans to convert a historic Herefordshire bar and café into five flats have been refused.

The Royal Hall, to the rear of the Royal Oak Hotel in the Southend, Ledbury, currently houses the VIP Bar and includes a flat to the rear.

The venue struggled to recover after the pandemic, and its owner, a Miss Heaney, applied in November for planning permission to turn the whole property into a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom flats.


New floors, stairs and a lift were to be introduced inside the high-ceilinged hall, though there would be “minimal external modifications”, her application said.

But the hall’s location next to the grade II-listed Royal Oak Hotel, formerly part of the same property, and other nearby grade II and grade II* listed buildings within the town’s conservation area, raised heritage concerns with officials.

Herefordshire Council’s senior building conservation officer Conor Ruttledge said the one-page heritage impact assessment accompanying the application “lacks the necessary degree of expert insight” to show it would not harm the area.


Planning officer Ollie Jones agreed that in particular the 20 new roof lights required, and the loss of six “distinctive” roof ventilators, would be a “marked visual change” to the hall.

Nor had the proposal “adequately demonstrated how it would safeguard against indiscriminate parking in this location”, he said.

And while there would be “some limited public benefits through the re-use of an existing building within a highly sustainable location”, this did not outweigh the harms identified, he concluded.

The Royal Hall was built in 1895 as a multi-purpose function hall until in 1934 when it becoming a meeting hall of the Eastnor Lodge of Freemasons. It has since also served as a cinema, theatre and boxing venue.