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Bishop of Salisbury rejects plea to halt takeover of listed Ivy House Hotel

The new Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Rev Nick Holtam (pictured), has declined to enter the ensuing row over Marlborough College’s plans to turn the grade II listed Ivy House Hotel into a hostel for its female students.

But another way forward that has been suggested is a round table meeting between the College and the protesters, which has come from the Rev Andrew Studdert-Kennedy, rural dean and rector of St Mary’s, Marlborough.

The Bishop, who was enthroned last month, is automatically ex officio president of the College’s council, and has been asked by retired company director Gordon Olson to intervene on behalf of the town, which is opposed to the loss of the hotel.

Mr Olson, whose two sons were students at the College, has challenged the decision of a planning inspector to grant change of use for the property despite the opposition of Wiltshire Council, Marlborough town council, the Chamber of Commerce and influential individual residents.

And he has claimed that the appeal decision was biased because it failed to take into account extensive evidence of how the loss of the hotel would hit Marlborough, in particular events such as the jazz and literature festivals.

But Bishop Holtam has now told him: “The person with the ultimate responsibility for the conduct of the affairs of the Council is the chairman who is currently Sir Hayden Phillips who I know intends to write to you as well.”

“I am of course in addition an ex officio member of the Council but as such am bound by the decisions of the Council.”

And his letter adds; “I am advised that following a Resolution of Council a contract has been entered into for the College to purchase the Ivy House Hotel conditional upon planning permission being granted for a change of use to enable the College to convert the property into a boarding house for pupils.”

“ Planning permission has been granted on appeal by a duly constituted Inspector in accordance with the legislation.  The Planning process is a democratic one.”

“I am satisfied, however, that the College entered into a contract to purchase the Ivy House in good faith after the owners had failed to find a buyer to run it as an hotel.  I am therefore unable to intervene In the way you had hoped might be possible.”

Bishop Holtam had asked the Rev Andrew Studdert-Kennedy, rural dean and rector of St Mary’s, Marlborough, who is a former student at the College, to investigate local feeling about the loss of the hotel.

“There are two things at stake,” he told Marlborough News Online.  “One is the planning process and whether it has actually been followed through correctly.  It does seem there are irregularities.”

“And it does seem peculiar.  It is absolutely right to want that to be cleared up.”

“The other issue is whether the College should be doing this at all.  It might help if the College made a statement about that.”

He added: “There is a lot of mis-information around and this confusion.  It is a pity that lawyers have got involved and given legal advice.  The moment that happens it puts the barriers up.”

“May be the legal advice to the College is rather like that at St Paul’s Cathedral.  They were told that to talk to the protesters would imply agreement with them or recognition of them.”

“Really you want to have a round table meeting between the College and the objectors as there is genuine feeling that this takeover of the hotel will create a rift between the College and the town.”

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  • Town-Hall-2011-05-03 08-
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