Developers have been granted permission to convert a Fenland restaurant into housing after multiple attempts. 

Howard Renovations Ltd has been given the green light to renovate the former Classics restaurant on Station Road in Manea in order to establish a house of multiple occupation, or HMO. 

Simon Howard, the applicant, applied to convert the restaurant into accommodation for 18 people in 2020, an HMO for 11 people in 2022 and into three flats in 2023, but all requests were denied. 

Fenland District Council (FDC) has now, though, agreed to his request to carry out works to convert the building into an HMO for up to 12 people in five rooms – although he has informally agreed to initially limit the number to nine. 

This is the same number of people who could stay above the restaurant when it operated as a bed and breakfast, his agent Lee Bevans told FDC councillors at a meeting this week. 

Mr Bevans suggested that nine people could live in the HMO for a year, after which this could be reviewed with a view to increasing the number to 12 if this was deemed acceptable by the council. 

His suggestion, made in light of objections from residents and ward councillors, was welcomed by FDC’s planning committee, but will have to be handled by its licensing team which will be responsible for allowing it to operate as an HMO. 

Public objections to Mr Howard’s application centred on overcrowding, a lack of on-street parking, noise and anti-social behaviour, which many said are already problems because the property has operated as an unlicensed HMO since the restaurant’s closure. 

“During the previous year, while the property has been under similar use, there have been frequent noisy outside gatherings of residents for communal smoking and drinking, letting off of fireworks late at night, revving car engines and a violent late-night incident that required significant police intervention,” one of the 27 objections reads.

“Residents of the property have also harassed passers-by, catcalling from the street or windows.” 

The application also received nine letters of support, though, with some residents arguing that the current state of the property is exactly why it needs an official purpose. 

“This application needs to be approved so the property can be renovated,” one resident wrote. “For three years this has been going round in circles.”

FDC says that it’s “understood that the building/site is currently being used in an unauthorised manner, however not for the development applied for”. 

Planned external works to the building include replacing the windows and installing acoustic fencing, aimed at keeping noise levels low. 

Internal works will allow developers to establish five rooms with shared bathrooms, a lounge, dining room, kitchen, utilities room and store room. An existing outbuilding will also be retained for storage. 

The application was approved unanimously.