A charity's plans to turn a former vicarage by the river Wye in Hereford into flats for homeless families have been refused.

Concurrent bids by Vennture, formerly the Hereford City Mission, proposed turning the large building on Vicarage Road into either four or five flats, the four-flat version to include a ground-floor nursery if this proved viable.

These drew considerable local opposition, with 21 objections being lodged to the four-flat application, 20 to the other.

Among these, a group of parents of pupils at the neighbouring St James’ Primary School said the plans “include no provision for the school or the local community”, and “differ drastically to [Vennture’s] initial plans communicated to, and supported by the local community”.


It said a local campaign, Space for St James, attracted more than 700 pledges of support for Vennture's bid to ensure the building remained in use for the good of the whole community.

Vennture then “requested extremely high renovations and rental costs by the local school, local nurseries and community groups which have been prohibitive to any further involvement”, the parents said.

Herefordshire Council has now decided that the change would mean the loss of a community facility, which would be against county planning policy.

Planning officer Simon Rowles concluded last week: “It is clear from the local representations that the building previously fulfilled a vast range of community functions and that the proposed use(s) could not be considered an enhancement, or even comparable, to those facilities.”

“Insufficient information” had been provided to show that such uses were no longer required, he said.

Using the building to provide interim living accommodation for needy families “has social benefits, but does not amount to a community use that would fulfil policy objectives”, he said – describing this as “a regrettable situation”.

Noise from an adjacent dairy could also “unacceptably compromise [residents’] amenity”, while the lack of a bat survey on the building also prevented permission being granted.

Lying with the city’s central conservation area, the unlisted Victorian building was previously used by the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service under the name the Riverside Centre.

Vennture bought the building in May last year – “committing to use it for the benefit of the public and as a hub to bring support and care to those in need in Hereford”, its website says.