A Grade II listed former orphanage in Crewe is to be converted into retirement flats.
Webb House on Victoria Avenue has been standing empty for 12 years.
Permission has been given by Cheshire East Council’s southern planning committee for Arcam Developments to convert the historic Edwardian building into 18 apartments, and build an extension with 36 more flats.
There will also be a swimming pool and gym.
Urging the committee to approve the plans, Cllr Brian Roberts, Labour member for Crewe West, praised the developer for protecting a ‘rightful focal point’ in his ward.
He said: “We hear and use terms such as ‘jewel in the crown’, ‘iconic building’, ‘part of the heritage of our town’ – all these terms can be used to describe this exceptionally splendid building which has served our community for over 100 years.
“We see many of our buildings which I think it is fair to say some are kept particularly well, other historical building are in a little bit of a state, and we have seen proposals which are not really sympathetic of those.
“However, with this development I am very pleased to see that the developer along with the CEC planners and the heritage team have undeniably pulled out all the stops to ensure that the key aim of protecting this historical building is met while developing a sustainable means to do so for many generations to come.”
Clive Cunio, representing Arcam Developments, said: “Whilst the scheme proposed is bold and ambitious, great care has been taken to preserve the special architectural and historic interest of the listed building, found in its scale and robust architectural detailing.”
The new block to the rear is expected to feature copper cladding and ceiling to floor windows, but the final design will be approved by officers.
Cllr Andrew Kolker, Conservative member for Dane Valley, admitted he was not comfortable giving officers the final say on whether to approve the designs – and he proposed deferring making a decision ‘until the application is finished’.
“This is one of the most important buildings in Crewe,” he said.
“The purpose of this committee is to add some democratic accountability to the planning process and if this application is just going to be delegated back to officers then frankly what is the point of this committee?”
But his proposal was rejected by six votes to four, with two abstentions – and Cllr Joy Bratherton, Labour member for Crewe East, suggested she would be happy to live in the newer block later in life.
“I actually think it works very well from the artist’s impression and I have faith in the officers,” she said.
“When my time comes to live in one of these establishments I personally would be happy going into the modern piece of building, rather than entering what for locals around here has always been an orphanage or workhouse-type façade. There is a dark side to that.”
Councillors approved the scheme with 11 votes for and one abstention, while the listed building consent was granted with 10 votes for and two abstentions.