Bishop of Salisbury enters the escalating row over Marlborough’s Ivy House Hotel
EXCLUSIVE: By Gerald Isaaman
The newly-enthroned Bishop of Salisbury has stepped into the escalating row between Marlborough College and the town over its proposed £1.8 million purchase of the grade II listed Ivy House Hotel as a permanent hostel for girl students.
The Rt Rev Nick Holtam’s (pictured) appointment as Bishop automatically made him president of the council of the governors of the college, whose move to buy the 28-room hotel has created a major rift between the town and college and resulted in the threat of legal action.
Bishop Holtam has now revealed that he is looking into the situation, having done so in response to a plea from retired company director Gordon Olson, who has made an official complaint alleging bias against government planning inspector Paul Jackson, who granted the college change of use consent for the hotel to become a hostel.
“He has politely acknowledged a letter I sent him expressing my disquiet and said he will look into the situation,” Mr Olson told Marlborough News Online.
“It is a start and I look forward to hearing more from him. We shall have to wait now and see what happens given that Sir John Sykes has also written to him.”
Mr Olson’s two sons were pupils at the college, which includes among its former female students the Duchess of Cambridge, the daughters of the Duke of York, and the wives of David Cameron, George Osborne and Speaker John Bercow.
So was one of the sons of retired solicitor Sir John Sykes (pictured), who wrote last week to Bishop Holtham, formerly vicar of St Martin’s in the Field, in London, urging him to persuade the college governors to “withdraw from the purchase” of the hotel.
Sir John Sykes, chairman of the Merchants House Trust
He wrote in his capacity as chairman of Marlborough’s Merchants House Trust, vice-chairman of the Marlborough Literary Festival, and a long term resident.
Sir John’s letter says the planning appeal was granted “despite the combined opposition of both Wiltshire Council and Marlborough Town Council, together with the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce, both the Jazz and Literature Festivals, as well as numerous individuals including Mr Robert Hiscox, the High Sheriff of Wiltshire.”
He points out: “Cogent arguments were submitted against change of use on grounds of the great harm which will result to the tourist trade and the town’s economy.”
Then he adds: “Legal action is now being contemplated to prevent the college’s plans going ahead. As a retired solicitor I believe there are substantial grounds for such action and the college could find itself mired in a long drawn-out, expensive and acrimonious argument.”
“The loss of the hotel will undoubtedly not only affect the future of tourism to the town and the surrounding area but also I fear create a rift between town and gown that will be harmful both to Marlborough and its much valued college.”
“I appreciate that you have been on the local scene for only a short time, but your investigation into the circumstances of the hotel purchase and intervention at this stage will, I hope, ensure that the governors reconsider their decision and withdraw from the purchase.”
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