Breakthrough talks start to end rift between Marlborough College and the town
The first of what are hoped to be a series of breakthrough talks to heal the rift between Marlborough College and the town has taken place.
It follows the completion by the College, one of the country’s leading public schools, of its controversial purchase of the Ivy House Hotel.
Marlborough News Online can reveal that Nicholas Sampson, the College’s master, met last Friday with retired company director Gordon Olson, one of the leading protagonists in the planning row that has gone on for almost a year.
“And I am very confident that we can look forward to a more positive situation in the future,” said Mr Olson, whose two sons were students at the College. “This the good message I can give you for Christmas.”
It was Mr Olson who challenged the decision of a government planning inspector to grant change of use to the College to convert the 28-room hotel as a hostel for female students, who, in the past, have included Kate Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge.
He sought leading counsel’s advice on whether it could be challenged in law but discovered that this was possibly only on narrow points of law and within a tight time frame.
Now the College’s completion of its contract to buy the grade II listed hotel for a reputed £1.8 million has resulted in Mr Olson’s overtures for talks meeting with success last Friday.
“I met the Master, who was very helpful and friendly,” he told Marlborough News Online. “We discussed ways in which the College and the town can re-engage in the future, certainly as far as culture is concerned.”
Mr Olson has been a significant supporter of Marlborough’s International Jazz Festival, has been its chief engineer since 1993 and played a part in the way it has prospered.
One of his concerns over the Ivy House debacle is the fact that the hotel’s car park has been a venue for jazz festival events and is interested too in the College’s memorial hall as another venue for jazz performances.
“The Master and I will meet again in the New Year,” he added. “We want to draw up some sort of working paper to get a dialogue going between the College and the town.”
Wiltshire Council is meanwhile investigating its own planning process in dealing with the hotel takeover, which it overwhelmingly opposed along with Marlborough town council, the Chamber of Commerce and some 30 individuals.