Bishop of Salisbury steps into dispute over College takeover of Ivy House Hotel
The Bishop of Salisbury is attending a meeting today (Saturday) of the council of Marlborough College, which is still embroiled in the controversy over its bid to buy the Ivy House Hotel and convert it into a hostel for female students.
The Rt Rev Nick Holtam last week turned down a request from protesters to intervene in the dispute over the grade II listed Marlborough hotel in his capacity as ex officio president of the council.
But he appears to have changed his mind after receiving the views of the Rev Andrew Studdert-Kennedy, rural dean and rector of St Mary’s, Marlborough, himself a former College student, who is prepared to chair a public meeting to debate the issues.
The newly-enthroned bishop has also received a second letter from Gordon Olson, whose own two sons were students at the College, pointing out that the current tensions would be defused if the hotel purchase didn’t go ahead.
“There is a strong feeling in the town that commercial considerations are now uppermost in the College’s agenda for this purchase,” Mr Olson, a retired company director, wrote.
“After its public relations disaster in the matter of the Trevalga village sale, we now have another example of the pursuit of a business objective to the likely detriment of a local community.”
“I should point out, once again, that there is no net economic benefit to the town from an expansion of pupil numbers, which simultaneously reduces the tourist spending deriving from an hotel.”
“If the College wants more boarding house places it should be building on its own land. Doing that, and allowing the commercial property market to take its course in producing a new owner for a refurbished hotel would, conversely, produce an economic upside for the town.”
Mr Olson accepts that while the College may be legally entitled, after the planning appeal decision in its favour, to complete the hotel purchase, it nevertheless “does not make it right that it should do so.”
And he adds: “The appeal decision was reached without oral representations. It overturned the written objections of Marlborough Town Council, Wiltshire Council, some thirty local residents and an unfavourable economic impact report.”
“It can only be challenged on points of law. So much for the democratic process.”
He also reveals that an attempt by the Rev Andrew Studdert-Kennedy to arrange a meeting between the College and the objectors has been rebuffed.
“I agreed with him that such a meeting would be helpful,” Mr Olson informs the Bishop. “I would now respectfully request that you talk to Sir Hayden Phillips (chairman of the College council) to see if you can facilitate it, on a “no prejudice” basis if that is what is required to meet objections from the College’s solicitors.”
Meanwhile, Wiltshire Council is still being pressed to answer “irregularities” in the planning appeal process, in particular the part played by planning officer Mike Wilmott, whose original recommendation to allow the change of use for the hotel was rejected by the area planning committee