End in sight for Melton Grange
OWNERS of a former prestigious hotel want to demolish it and use its eight acre site for new homes – but they look set to face an uphill battle.The Melton Grange in Woodbridge has been standing empty since its sudden and controversial closure three years ago.
OWNERS of a former prestigious hotel want to demolish it and use its eight acre site for new homes – but they look set to face an uphill battle.
The Melton Grange in Woodbridge has been standing empty since its sudden and controversial closure three years ago.
But owners Chater Land Holdings are now seeking permission to either demolish all or part of the hotel, to convert buildings in the grounds and build an unspecified number of new properties at the site in Pytches Road.
Residents, parish councillors, and conservationists are all in favour of the idea – but not Suffolk Coastal council's planning officers.
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They say the site is earmarked for employment use and believe the hotel should be kept and marketed to see if it could be used as a private school, country club, hospital, conference centre or company headquarters.
The authority's south development control sub committee will discuss the proposals next Tuesday and is being recommended to refuse permission for housing.
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Officers say the proposals are against policy, would spoil the area, could harm protected trees on the site, no cash sum has been put forward towards local play facilities, and not enough detail provided about the homes proposed.
Chater Land Holdings though has stressed to the council that its application for the hotel, parts of which date back to the 1700s, is only to establish the principle of housing and full details would be drawn up if the idea was acceptable.
In a report, the owners say efforts have been made to market the property for other uses but without success and housing now seemed the best use.
A scheme was drawn up to refurbish it as a top-quality hotel but the projected cost – understood to be around £2 million – was economically unviable.
The Woodbridge Society would welcome the preparation of a design brief for the site, and it is comfortable with housing though it would like to see a commercial element and sensitive development.
Melton Parish Council agrees with the housing proposals and would like to see the main hotel converted to apartments, while both Woodbridge Town Council and the Melton Grange Residents' Association have no objection.
But Suffolk Coastal's planners say: "Although the applicant did not purchase the premises until July 2001, it would appear it has not been on the market for over two years.
"Thus, in the light of insufficient evidence that the site has been marketed effectively and its potential for a range of uses that could not easily be met on the council's allocated employment sites, it is considered the proposal would be contrary to policy."
Fifty staff lost their jobs when the Melton Grange closed after being told by the then owners that they could not afford to modernise it.