A planning application (BH2011/03227) has been submitted to replace the old skating rink at the end of Queen Square and no.11, the last house on the LH side, with a five storey, serviced apartment hotel with a restaurant/café at ground floor level. The hotel will be known as "The Light".
The designs have been prepared by Conran & Partners, and the application impresses with the amount of research and effort that has gone into ensuring that the building harmonises seamlessly with adjacent period properties, and enhances the immediate neighbourhood without dominating it. The front of the hotel is mainly rendered, and has balconies and windows disposed and proportioned to echo patterns established in the adjacent frontages. The 'lantern' top storey is stepped back from the front to minimise height. The rear is in grey brick to harmonise with the colours predominant in and around St. Nicholas churchyard. To the west end of the site, behind the west side of Queen Square, the upper floors are stepped back from the rear walls of Wykeham Terrace to minimise overshadowing, and the balconies so formed screened to maintain privacy.
A not insignificant planning gain will be the improvement of Queen Square itself. The developer's aspirations for this, shown below, require a levelling of the approach to the hotel to provide an outside eating area and a public art work to attract people into the Square:-
The Square however, being a cul-de-sac, will still struggle to increase footfall. The suggestion for a pedestrian 'cut-through' from Queen Square to the St. Nicholas open space was considered but, unfortunately, failed to receive persuasive backing. The factors said to weigh against it are the 3 metre change in gradient and the need to demolish a section of the churchyard wall. These points are valid to some extent but not insuperable. What seems to have been the main concern is the unknown consequences of a new link between a quiet area and the busy city centre, notwithstanding that any conceivable problem could surely have been obviated by the provision of gates. There was never any suggestion of establishing a permanent right-of-way. As things stand, due to timidity, a unique opportunity to improve the City's pedestrian links will be lost forever.