CHANGES PROPOSED: HSBC Bank, in Barnard Castle
CHANGES PROPOSED: HSBC Bank, in Barnard Castle

PROPOSALS to convert a former bank building into a boutique hotel have been backed by town councillors.

Businessman Trevor Honeyman, of Whorlton, wants to change the former HSBC bank in Market Place, Barnard Castle to a hotel.

The grade II-listed building has been empty since HSBC closed the branch two years ago.

Members of Barnard Castle Town Council’s planning committee discussed the scheme last week.

Cllr Frank Harrison asked how many bedrooms it would have but town clerk Michael King explained: “This is principally a change of use application rather than a detailed proposal.”

Mr King told councillors that design and conversation officers at Durham County Council feel that the plan would add to the vitality of the town centre.

Town mayor Cllr John Blissett added: “The idea is good – we need more accommodation in Barney.”

The meeting heard that the premises may not be licensed.

Cllr Kelly Blissett responded: “There are plenty of pubs in the area if people want to go for a drink. It’s better than the building standing empty. I think it will be good for the town, especially as it has four parking spaces at the rear so they will not be fighting to park at the front.”

Councillors asked whether the former bank’s safe would be removed, suggesting this may be difficult. The meeting heard other ex-banks in the town, such as Betfred, had kept theirs.

The committee voted to support the scheme.

However, heritage expert Niall Hardie-Hammond has called for more detail before the scheme is approved.

In a letter to planners, he said: “While I am broadly supportive of the intention to bring the building back into use and ensure a positive future for this listed building in an important location within the Barnard Castle conservation area, I am concerned with the lack of detail contained within the heritage statement.”

Mr Hardie-Hammond said the minimum standards have not been met and he feared there was an insufficient understanding of the building, which was once home to the Joint Stock Branch and was listed in 1950.

Durham County Council will make the final decision in the coming weeks.