Closed-down wine bar set to become flats - days after cannabis factory busted

A disused town centre bar could be turned into flats - days after police discovered a cannabis factory inside the building. A planning application has been submitted to convert the former Blakey's Café Bar, in Newcastle, into five apartments and one commercial unit.

Blakey's was the first wine bar in Staffordshire and operated for 42 years before owner Martin Blakeman closed its doors for the final time in 2019. It comes as Staffordshire Police last week found 127 cannabis plants inside the Paradise Street property.

The police raid came as planners at Newcastle Borough Council are considering the change-of-use application for Blakey's. Under the proposals, the building would be divided into two two-bedroom flats, two one-bedroom flats and a three-bedroom flat, along with a ground floor commercial unit at the rear.

The 10 existing off-street parking spaces at Blakey's would be retained for both the flats and the business. External changes at the building, which lies within Newcastle's conservation area, would be limited to the installation of a new entrance door, windows and rooflights.

The planning application states: "The vacant building, formerly Blakey's Café Bar, has been in commercial use for many decades. It has been vacant for several years and planning permission is sought for conversion to five residential units, plus one commercial unit. The elevation alterations are required to facilitate that and allow its subdivision.

"The building is not listed and although it lies within the conservation area exhibits little heritage interest or architectural merit. The building has a poor visual contribution to the town centre or street scene, especially because small WC windows face the road. The elevation changes will improve that visual impact and add retailing vibrancy. The works will also balance the window proportions seen across the two sections of the building."

Previous plans to convert the building to office and retail use were approved by the borough council last year, but never implemented. The council is expected to make a decision on the new planning application by July 8.

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