Secretary of State Eric Pickles can save the Ivy House Hotel says Claire Perry
Marlborough’s grade II listed Ivy House Hotel may already be safe from plans by Marlborough College to convert it into a dormitory for girl students.
A planning inquiry into the College’s application for a change of use is already on the cards, but Marlborough’s MP Claire Perry has pointed out that it is more than likely that any inquiry recommendation would not be accepted by Eric Pickles (pictured), Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
Because of the government’s localism legislation - due to come into force in October, and major proposals to change the planning system, Mr Pickles would refer the Ivy House Hotel decision back to Wiltshire Council.
And the county council, together with Marlborough town council, have already both rejected a change of use proposal for the 28-bedroom hotel.
“That interpretation is correct,” Mrs Perry told Marlborough News Online before flying off on holiday with her husband Clayton and children to Lake Tahoe, on the edge of the Sierra Nevada, in California.
“Indeed, I have heard Eric make this very point – decisions have to be thrashed out locally.”
Mrs Perry is insistent on not expressing any views herself on the fate of the hotel, but meanwhile one of the objectors to the scheme has pointed out that current legislation also allows the Planning Inspectorate to reject a demand for an inquiry and declare that it is up to the planning authority - Wiltshire Council - to decide the future of a local site.
The possibility of preventing the Ivy House Hotel being sold off – the company of top chef Marco Pierre White has proposed making a bid – has been welcomed by Marlborough county councillor Nick Fogg, the town's former mayor and creator of the Marlborough International Jazz Festival.
He has been leading the campaign to retain the hotel because of the economic tourism benefit of more than £1 million it brings to Marlborough, which would be lost if the property became a students’ hostel.
“This is terrifically good news for us and those wanting to save the Ivy House Hotel,” he told Marlborough News Online. “It is an early and splendid example of localism in action.”
And he added: “It is entirely appropriate that local communities have an important say about what happens in their arrondissement.”
Mr Fogg also points out that the planning committee that considered the appeal situation last month invited the Wiltshire Council solicitor to give his valid views.
And the solicitor told the committee: “The value in planning terms of an existing use of land is clearly a material consideration in determining a planning application unless there is no possibility that a refusal would result in its retention.”
“The test is to ask whether there is a fair chance that if permission were refused, the existing use would continue rather than stand empty. But that test should be applied while balancing the planning significance of the existing use.”
Peter Bryan, deputy master at Marlborough College, said: “As far as the Ivy House planning application is concerned, as you know we have appealed and we await the outcome of that process.”
Mr Pickles’ new plans for town centre parking – his draft National Planning Policy Framework aims to simplify the planning system dramatically by slashing 1,000 pages of policy to just 52 – may also prove a boon for Marlborough.
“Families and local firms face a parking nightmare under existing rules,” declares Mr Pickles. “Stressed-out drivers have to run the gauntlet of parking fines, soaring parking charges and a lack of parking spaces.”
“These parking restrictions have hit small shops the hardest, creating ghost town high streets which can’t compete with out-of-town supermarkets. We want to see more parking spaces to help small shops prosper in local high streets and assist mums struggling with their family shop.”
“We are standing up for local high streets.”