A PLANNING application to convert a historic town centre venue into a HMO has been approved - and it's been met with mixed reactions. 

The former La Brasserie and Three Shires Café buildings on Lower Mill Street, Kidderminster, are set to be converted into 21 residential co-living studio rooms, with a co-working area and coffee shop.

The La Brasserie site was previously the home of Kidderminster's first cinema, the Bijou Cinema, and later became the Frank Freeman Dancing Club, which hosted some of the biggest rock acts of the 1960s, including Fleetwood Mac, Fairport Convention and Captain Beefheart.

Kidderminster Shuttle: Captain Beefheart in full swing with his Magic Band at Frank Freeman’sCaptain Beefheart in full swing with his Magic Band at Frank Freeman’s (Image: Colin Hill)

Some residents welcomed the plan on social media, with Jonathan Briscoe saying the vacant building is "better used than unused."

Rebecca Farnell said: "I'm surprised it stood empty for so long considering how passionate people feel about the building and its history".

Others shared their enthusiasm for the former La Brasserie restaurant, which closed in 2022.

John Beckingham said: "The biggest shame is that this was one of the best restaurants in Kidderminster.

"It is always a case of use them or lose them".

James Barker, Kidderminster BID leader said that additional housing in the town centre is "severely needed" and will increase footfall.

However, independent councillor Leigh Whitehouse, representing the Blakebrook and Habberley South Ward on Wyre Forest District Council, said he was "disappointed" that the plans have been approved.

Kidderminster Shuttle: The former Three Shires Café and RestaurantThe former Three Shires Café and Restaurant (Image: Doolittle & Dalley)

He said: "Clearly there's a case for HMOs but this just isn't the location for it.

"I like the idea it's going to have some commercial space but my preference would have been that it would be commercial in its entirety and not a HMO".

The former dancing club building was commemorated with a Kidderminster Civic Society plaque in 2006. The Kidderminster Civic Society said they "broadly" supported the application, but want the blue plaque to be protected.

Wyre Forest District Council has now approved a planning application to convert the building, which is set to provide “much-needed” housing.

Planning officer Julia McKenzie-Watts said: “The proposed development would provide much-needed housing in a sustainable town centre location and would ensure the long term viable use of a vacant grade II listed building.

“Any harm to the significance of the designated heritage assets due to the proposed internal works would be less than substantial and would be clearly offset by the public benefits of the scheme".

Kidderminster Shuttle: The site previously housed La Brasserie and Frank Freeman's Dancing Club The site previously housed La Brasserie and Frank Freeman's Dancing Club (Image: Doolittle & Dalley)

She added: “The proposed commercial/office unit on the ground floor would retain an active shop front to Church Street and would make a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area.

“The size and layout of the proposed residential accommodation is considered to be acceptable and would provide an acceptable living environment for future occupiers”.

The plan outlines that each room would have an ensuite, kitchenette and space for working, eating and relaxing.

The redevelopment includes three communal kitchens with storage space and cooking facilities for the residents. The planned conversion would also include a large outside recreational area, internal co-living working area, communal toilet, office, laundry room, designated bin storage area and bike storage.

The applicant plans to create two commercial spaces, one being used as a co-working area including a coffee shop which will be accessible to residents and the public, with the other space being large enough for other commercial uses.