Historic Kenilworth building will finally be converted

The Wantage in Castle Hill
The Wantage in Castle Hill

The historic Kenilworth building The Wantage will finally be converted after years of failed plans.

The Grade II-listed house in Castle Hill will be divided up into three apartments - one two-bedroom unit on the ground floor and two one-bedroom units on the top floor.

Warwick District Council’s planning committee unanimously approved the plans at a meeting on Tuesday September 13 after a short debate.

Council officers had recommended the conversion be approved because the benefits of securing the Wantage’s future outweighed the possible harm to the house’s integrity.

And during the debate, councillors tended to agree with the officers’ thoughts.

Chairman of the planning committee Cllr John Cooke (Con, St John’s) said: “We’ve actually got something here which is fair and acceptable.

“It’s highly regarded in Kenilworth and people will be pleased to see that something will take place to preserve the building.”

Cllr Martyn Ashford (Con, Aylesford) said: “The application last time was turned down for good reasons, but this one that’s coming forward is one I can support.”

Concerns were raised about the garden, which is listed along with the building, not being divided into three.

Cllr Felicity Bunker (Con, Park Hill) asked if this would result in lots of garden equipment such as swings and trampolines cluttering the garden.

In response, Cllr Cooke told her: “We can’t be killjoys.”

And Cllr Rowena Hill (Con, Abbey) expressed concern that Historic England had objected to the conversion because it felt the house should not be split up.

But Cllr Cooke pointed out that Historic England has changed its mind on applications before, most notably the addition of ‘glamping’ tents to Warwick Castle’s grounds which were approved last year.

The conversion would also allow the possibility of reverting the Wantage back into a single dwelling in the future, as the only internal alterations would be filling in certain doorways to separate the three apartments.

In the end, the whole committee was convinced the plans were sound and all members voted to approve.

The approval comes after several previous plans to convert the Wantage, a key example of the arts and crafts style pioneered by William Morris, were refused.

An application in March to split the building in two was refused due to the possible harm to the building’s integrity and it not taking the listed garden into account.

In 2012 a plan to convert the building into four apartments rather than two was refused, and an appeal to overturn the decision was dismissed a year later.

And in 2004 a plan to build a two-and-a-half storey building on its grounds was also dismissed at appeal.