A Government Inspector has decided that the former Frandon Hotel in Clacton can continue to operate as a hostel for the homeless.
Tendring District Council (TDC) took enforcement action against the unauthorised use of the property in Beach Road last year.
The owner Deepak Sharma appealed against the Council’s decision in a bid to get it overturned.
After a public inquiry held over two days last month the inspector has found in favour of Mr Sharma – but he did not award any appeal costs against TDC.
The property was originally used for residential purposes but had become a hotel by 1972 and was then subsequently changed to a hostel.
Mr Sharma claimed that had happened more than ten years before the Council issued the enforcement notice and therefore according to planning law no action could be taken.
However, TDC’s position was that the change to a hostel actually took place in 2009 and therefore planning permission was required.
The inspector said that the Frandon is currently run by a charitable trust as a night shelter and referrals had been made by TDC and Colchester Borough Council as well as the Prison Service.
The inspector said that during the period under dispute – the exact use of the building between March 2006 and 2009 – the accommodation has always been fairly basic and inexpensive.
There was also sharing of communal facilities and that a substantial part of the trade has been accommodation for the homeless, both families and individuals, referred by TDC and accounting for around half of the Frandon’s income.
“In conclusion, my view is that when it was purchased by the appellant in 2002, the lawful use of the Frandon was as a hotel,” the inspector added.
“Between that date and March 18, 2006 there was, on the balance of probability, a material change of use to a hostel.
“The hostel use has continued with no material change in character in planning terms for more than ten years. Accordingly, at the time the enforcement notice was issued it was too late to take action against the matters stated in the notice.”
The inspector added that due to certain circumstances the inquiry was necessary and therefore there was no award of appeal costs against TDC.
The site of the Frandon is within Clacton’s Conservation Area and the town centre boundary.
TDC has a policy that hotels or guesthouses in the centre of coastal resorts cannot change their use unless it can be proved that they are no longer financially viable.
The aim of the policy is to safeguard hotels for visitors and support the town’s tourist offer.
Paul Honeywood, TDC’s Cabinet Member for Housing, said that he was very disappointed about the outcome of the inquiry and the Council had made a strong case.