Albert’s gets the go-ahead for new venue in Rochdale but councillor calls extension a ‘carbuncle’

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Albert’s is planning a major transformation of historic Wolstenholme Hall in Norden for its latest venue in Greater Manchester.

Albert’s has been given the go-ahead for a new venue at the former Nutters restaurant in Rochdale – despite a planned extension being branded ‘a carbuncle’ and ‘a disgrace’.

The latest addition to the chain – which already has restaurants in Manchester, Didsbury, Worsley and Standish – will involve a major transformation of historic Wolstenholme Hall. This includes two new extensions – including a huge glass-fronted restaurant and bar, covering 6,300 sq ft – new outdoor terraces and an overflow car park to compensate for spaces lost to the development.

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Meanwhile, the inside of the hall is to be developed into a ‘variety of function spaces’ hosting everything from small private parties to large corporate events, wedding ceremonies and receptions.

What was said about Albert’s scheme at Rochdale Council’s planning meeting?

Proposals for the green belt site were passed by the planning committee at Rochdale Council when it met on Thursday (26 January). The scheme has sharply divided opinion in the area – attracting 40 objections and 60 letters of support – and that was reflected in the opposing views aired at the meeting.

The panel first heard from objector Dr Steve Davidson, who raised a number of concerns over the plans. He said: “This application would have a detrimental impact on the green belt because of its scale, damage to a heritage asset, an increase in noise pollution, light pollution and also more traffic issues.

“The very special circumstances claimed by the applicant do not offset the harms. We do not object in principle to the development but like 30 other objectors we think this one is too large with too many adverse impacts on the green belt and amenity of neighbouring properties.”

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But other residents spoke in favour of the plans, saying it would be a ‘privilege’ to welcome a ‘quality’ venue to the area – particularly given the lack of food and drink establishments currently available. Supporters of the application also said it would ‘drive’ new people into the area, create jobs and boost the local economy.

What did councillors on the planning committee say?

Councillors were also split on the issue. Coun Irene Davidson was outspoken in her condemnation of the plans in their current form.“We are quite sensible on this committee but we also know we have the choice to speak our minds – and my mind is that it’s an absolute disgrace,” she said. “The size of that extension is an absolute disgrace.”

“When I heard that Nutters had sold to that company, I thought ‘fabulous’ – because they are a well respected company. But they have let themselves down on this because that extension is an absolute carbuncle. It’s too close, it’s pushing everything towards those poor residents and the farm next door.”

Alberts at StandishAlberts at Standish
Alberts at Standish

However Coun Stephen Anstee, who, while ‘sympathetic to objectors’, took an entirely different view. “What I can’t seem to get past is was previously a successful restaurant and is proposed to continue broadly similarly in its existing use,” he said. “I think the economic importance of this for the area and for the borough should not be understated.”

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Coun Anstee added: “I have to be honest, I like this application and I think it’s something we should consider for approval.”

Coun Aftab Hussain also felt the application was an economic boost the borough could not afford to turn down, and proposed granting permission for the scheme. This was seconded by Coun Peter Rush, and the plans were passed by eight votes to four.

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