Proposals to redevelop the Lambeth Mission & St Mary's building in Lambeth Road with a new Methodist church and a 12-storey Premier Inn hotel have been rejected by the borough's planning applications committee.
The existing Lambeth Mission & St Mary's building dates from the early 1950s and replaced an earlier church and community centre destroyed during World War II.
The church has gone into partnership with a developer who wants to build a 12-storey Premier Inn hotel on the site of the existing church, and will build a new church where the adjacent hall is currently located.
Lambeth's planning applications committee resolved by five votes to one on Tuesday night that permission should be refused on the grounds that the hotel would be too big for its non-town-centre location and that it would add to a concentration of visitor accommodation that would harm the character of the area and affect the mix and Balance of uses.
The committee heard that 69 per cent of hotels in Lambeth are located in Bishop's ward (Waterloo) and that this translates to 22 establishments totalling 4,732 visitor bedrooms.
Methodist minister Revd Andy Lyons told councillors that he and his members "wish our church to continue its long and proud service to the community".
He warned: "If we don't redevelop, we are in danger of closing down.
"Our building is falling down, it is environmentally unfriendly, it is not accessible to disabled people, it is unsafe and we need to redevelop."
The committee also heard from Alice Achola-Omara, a trustee of Lambeth Mission, and Kanley Mchayle who talked about his work as an LGBT Methodist pastor.
Committee members commented favourably on aspects of the scheme but were unconvinced by the hotel element.
Cllr Tim Windle welcomed the principle of the development, but said: "I'm not clear on why this has to be a hotel ... I'm not satisfied that there's an unmet need that this is meeting."
Cllr Marianna Masters said that "the merits of the mission are without question" but questioned the need for a hotel and the scale of the proposed development.
Cllr Becca Thackray described the design as "extremely well thought through" and "sensitive".
Committee chair Cllr Clair Wilcox said it was "with a heavy heart" that she was proposing to accept the planning officers' recommendation to refuse permission.
She said that the proposed scheme had "more to offer the community and more of a sense of place" than most hotel developments, and that it was "a design-led building that would enhance the sense of place," but she was uncomfortable with the "very tight relationship" the hotel would have with the adjacent International House student residence.
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