DERELICT: The Lee Bay Hotel, near Ilfracombe, which is set to be redeveloped. Picture: Mike Southon 1003-200_06
THE dilapidated Lee Bay Hotel will be transformed into a large holiday complex after it gained planning approval last week.
North Devon Council's planning committee approved controversial plans last Wednesday to create 24 shared ownership holiday apartments.
Members felt the ambitious proposal could revitalise Lee, which was once a thriving tourist haven.
Owners David and Vanessa Higgins want to refurbish and extend the main hotel with 19 apartments, restaurant and bar and create five new grass-roofed garden apartments in the grounds and a new enclosed swimming pool, gym, sauna and spa complex, with facilities open to residents within a two-mile radius.
During a packed meeting at Ilfracombe Rugby Club, Councillor Robert Darell said: "The hotel is in the most appalling dilapidated condition with rain coming through the roof and water coming through the floor.
"How can anyone block people brave enough to take on this enterprise and invest so much money into putting it back together.
"They have come up with a fantastic plan. The alternative — well there is no alternative, other than to let the place fall down and become rat infested."
The scheme was approved by 18 members of the committee but there are still several issues for the council and the hotel to resolve through a management plan.
There are concerns about the early construction period start time, the protection of surrounding trees, the management of the site including lighting and balcony usage, and because apartment owners and people using the facilities will have access to what has been the main village car park.
The new apartments will be purchased on the basis of "fractional ownership" meaning the relevant owner is restricted to a certain amount of occupancy and the apartments let out by the hotel when not in use.
The planning committee is also looking at a legally-binding section 106 agreement to ensure the apartments remain for this holiday use and the public leisure facilities are built alongside the accommodation rather than afterwards.
The Lee Bay Hotel has not been open for three years.
The new development, designed by architects Nash Partnership, includes extensive use of gables, soft landscaping and will employ 50 people.
The planning committee visited the site last week before its meeting.
Member councillor Rodney Cann said: "I thought this would be overdevelopment and it would really impose on the valley but to my surprise this is not the case. I think it will in fact provide a boost to the local economy."