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“Late night drunks will put Marlborough College’s female students in danger”

Gordon Olson, another respected Marlborough figure, who sent his two sons to Marlborough College, has hit out at the College’s bid to buy the Ivy House Hotel and convert it into a hostel for girl students.

He fears for the security of the female students who might live there from “roaming bands of drunks” in the High Street at night – as well as the detriment such a move would have on Marlborough’s tourism economy.

And he points out that the hotel would have a “viable and sustainable” future if it were taken over by the celebrity chef Marco Pierre White backed by the insurance financier Robert Hiscox, the current High Sheriff of Wiltshire.

Mr Olson has followed Sir John Sykes in sending a protest letter to the Bristol-based Planning Inspectorate, one in which he declares: “The College rightly takes the security of its students very seriously.”

“Replication of that level of security in Marlborough High Street, in which the Ivy House is prominently located, would be difficult and potentially intrusive for the townspeople and visitors going about their legitimate business.”

“A new build within the school’s existing perimeter, which the Deputy Master (Peter Bryan) has publicly stated to be an option available to the College, would pose no such new problems.”

“Marlborough has a continuing problem with late night drinking by young people at weekends in its many bars and clubs.  This leads to the frequent presence of roaming bands of drunks in the High Street.”

“A girls’ boarding house in their midst would be a new and unwelcome target for public disorder, putting further avoidable pressure on the Wiltshire constabulary in its ongoing attempts to control this undesirable state of affairs.”

Mr Olson is the retired founder and managing director of Swindon-based Kinesis, the software house that was lead sponsor of the Marlborough Jazz Festival for five years in the nineties.

His sons were at Marlborough College earlier when Mr Olson, now a permanent Marlborough resident, was managing director and a board member of Logica, the internationally-famed technology company.

Mr Olson claims that the loss of the Ivy House Hotel would damage the town’s tourism economy, eliminating 28 of the 61 hotel rooms available in Marlborough, thus reducing the current estimated revenue -- from Wiltshire Council’s own figures -- of between £1.2 million and £1.8 million.

“The proposed conversion would, however, bring zero net contribution to the town’s economy,” he points out.  “This is because the economic inputs that would result from any future expansion of the College’s boarding population would be delivered equally, whether those students were accommodated in the Ivy House or in a purpose built boarding house within the school’s existing perimeter.”

And he adds: “Both the College and the hotel’s owner, Hunts Food Services, have claimed that it is not viable as a hotel and that no purchaser could be found for it.”

“I understand that occupancy rates are above 80 per cent and that under its previous ownership by experienced hoteliers it yielded annual profits in the region of £200,000.”

“At the Wiltshire Council meeting on 14th July a Hunts’ director, Mr Michael Douch, stated that his company had made no investment in the Ivy House subsequent to purchasing it in 2008, hardly a recipe for success in a market with growing expectations of the services and facilities it should find in upmarket boutique hotels.”

“Hunts no longer offers dining in the Ivy House, with the sole exception of a breakfast service.  It is now a matter of public record that Marco Pierre White, as hotelier, and Robert Hiscox, as financier, have come forward to state their interest in owning and operating the Ivy House as part of the Wheelers group of boutique hotels.”

“We can assume that, given their impeccable credentials in their respective fields of business, they would not have done so if they had not judged the hotel to be viable and sustainable.”

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