Former HSBC bank in Bigglewade to become physiotherapy clinic and flats

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A former Biggleswade bank is to become a physiotherapy clinic and flats, despite concerns the listed building would be vulnerable to noise from an entertainment venue next door.

Owner of St Neots-based Park Therapy Centre and physiotherapist Ivan Thrush is relocating his business in the town to 63 High Street.

He applied to convert the ex-HSBC premises into a physiotherapy facility on the ground floor and two flats on the upper two floors, as well as three more apartments at the back.

“It’s a vacant Grade II listed building,” senior planning officer Annabel Robinson told Central Bedfordshire Council’s development management committee.

“It requires a change of use,” she said. “There are town centre car parks for customers.

“And it seems a sensible place to have a community facility, close to the bus and railway stations.”

Biggleswade Town Council raised no objection, but suggested CBC conduct a noise assessment based around the potential impact from the adjacent business.

Conservative Biggleswade North councillor Ian Bond expressed concerned about the block of flats at the back of the resubmitted scheme.

“This would be detrimental to the character and setting of the listed building, the important adjacent George’s Hall at 67 High Street and the Biggleswade Conservation Area,” he said in a statement.

Mr Thrush explained the aim is “to rejuvenate the former bank, which has been allowed to fall into disrepair”.

His premises at Baystrait House next to the railway station is on the second floor without a lift or escalator.

“By moving our current Biggleswade clinic to a prominent town centre location we’re employing six extra staff and offering town centre housing,” he said.

“With more services provided, we expect the footfall to increase to between 25,000 and 30,000 visits.

“That in turn only benefits Biggleswade High Street as a whole.”

Independent Biggleswade South councillor Hayley Whitaker welcomed “something which will help regenerate the town centre and with such footfall holds great potential”.

But she also drew attention to the listed building and the neighbouring premises, saying: “George’s Hall is under new ownership and called the Stairway.

“It’s a live music, cocktail and dinner venue. It didn’t open in the autumn when intended because of Covid.

“We wouldn’t allow double glazing for the flats within the listed building and the noise might be significant for people living in that part of the property.”

Independent Potton councillor Tracey Wye said: “Historically it’s been a dance hall and there’s a beautiful stage.

“It hosted part of the comedy circuit prior to Covid, and has big party nights, as well as themed disco nights.

“Given the national furore over The Stables it appears new residents can affect businesses which have been there so long.

“There’s nothing else to do in this part of the world. We’ve got no cinema, no nightclubs, no buses.

“If that business is affected, you’re killing Biggleswade in another way to provide an extra four bedrooms.”

The senior planning officer replied that “we’ve always felt it wasn’t appropriate to attach a condition” and “the heritage and conservation of the listed building would take precedence over protecting them from noise sources”.

Conservative Dunstable Watling councillor Nigel Young said: “We decided before if you choose to live in the town centre you must be prepared for a degree of noise from passing revellers and nearby venues.”

Councillors unanimously approved the plans.