Concerns grow for historic hotel

CONCERN has today been raised over the future of an historic Ipswich hotel after a Christmas shop opened for business in the building.

CONCERN has today been raised over the future of an historic Ipswich hotel after a Christmas shop opened for business in the building.

The Great White Horse was bought by developers Citygate Developments in 2006 with the hope of giving it a massive overhaul, creating two shop units on the ground floor and refurbishing the hotel rooms.

However the ambitious £4million revamp has not come to pass.

The downstairs bar is closed and one of the units is currently occupied by a Christmas shop, prompting fears for the future of the landmark building which has hosted famous visitors in the past including Lord and Lady Nelson, King Louis XVIII of France, Edward VIII.

The historic hotel can trace its roots back to 1518, when it was known as The Tavern, and gave its name to the street it fronts.

Meanwhile, Charles Dickens featured the hotel in his book The Pickwick Papers.

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The grand past of the hotel has been partly blamed by Citygate for hindering the firm in its search for retail tenants because the building is listed and certain aspects need to be kept as they are.

Mike Cook, a member of The Ipswich Society's planning panel, said he was not happy to see the building in its current state and revealed he fears for its future.

“I can't say I'm really happy to see the Great White Horse in this state but one has got to be practical about these things,” he said.

“Practicality suggests the solution will be something along the lines that the current owners are thinking about, unattractive as it may seem to us.

“The council has tried very hard indeed to find alternative solutions but they are not forthcoming.”

Ian Reid, director at Citygate, said the firm has worked hard to find suitable tenants and added that Starbucks is set to fit out a new coffee shop after Christmas.

However he said the economic climate meant it was difficult to make the building economically viable.

“I'm as concerned about the building as anyone else and want to see the best quality tenants you can possibly get,” he said.

“The difficulty is we haven't got any other interest in the building.

“We have just spent £200,000 on the roof so I don't think anybody can question our commitment to the building.

“We are here to try and make sure that the building has got a future and the only way is to try to get an economic return from the asset that's there.”

Are you concerned about the future of the Great White Horse? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk