The future of Marlborough’s Ivy House Hotel will be considered by planners yet again on Thursday evening (July 14).
The owners of the hotel, originally built as a private school in 1707, want to sell the facility to exclusive public school Marlborough College for use as a boarding house for fifty sixth form girls.
But the contentious proposal has divided town and gown for months.
Back in February, Marlborough College had applied to Wiltshire Council for permission to change the use of the Grade II listed building – and the application to change the use of the 28-bedroom hotel looked set to be granted permission.
North Wiltshire Economic Partnership and the Chamber of Commerce stepped in after representations from the business community about the likely impact the hotel´s closure would have on the town´s economy.
NWEP´s representations, which broadly echoed the points made in a letter by the Chamber of Commerce, were:
1. The loss of an amenity for business and leisure use.
2. The loss of income to the local economy – the hotel´s B&B package means visitors generally dine out in town, and are known to contribute to the retail economy too.
3. The loss of a potential future employment site, and the scarcity of alternative sites in Marlborough for a hotel or employment.
Councillors were asked to delay a decision while an economic impact report was prepared. However, when the committee reconvened in April it was discovered that the consultant instructed by the council’s Economic Regeneration Team had a potential interest in the property himself, and that – according to council papers – parts of the report lacked an evidential basis.
The application was therefore removed from the agenda and the Economic Regeneration Team sought a fresh report.
In the interim period, however, the Marlborough College has appealed against the Council’s failure to determine the planning application within the normal eight week period, which means the matter must now go before a government inspector, who is seeking views before July 27.
On Thursday, the council’s East Area Planning Committee will decide whether to approve, or oppose, the application.
Planning officers are recommending that councillors give the application the nod. In a written report, they say: “The proposal will provide a viable and suitable use that will preserve the listed building and enable it to remain in good order.
“It will have no adverse impact on the character or appearance of the Conservation Area.
“Although in some respects the loss of the hotel use may be regretted, this is more a commercial matter than
one that can be opposed in planning terms as the development plan does not have any policies that would support a refusal.
“As the figures indicate, it is also evident that the College itself is an important part of the vitality and viability of the town and this proposal will enable this local business to continue to develop its facilities.”
However, objections are expected to be raised once again and, whatever the decision of planners, the final decision will rest with the government inspector.