End could be in sight for long-awaited Alnwick hotel repairs

Scaffolding at the White Swan Hotel in Alnwick. Picture by Jane Coltman
Scaffolding at the White Swan Hotel in Alnwick. Picture by Jane Coltman

Long-awaited repairs to the damaged balcony of an Alnwick hotel could be carried out in the next few months.

Scaffolding has cloaked a section of the White Swan on Bondgate Within since last summer, closing off the pavement and leaving an unsightly scar on the town centre.

The lack of progress has been a growing source of frustration for Coun Gordon Castle, who took up the matter with hotel owners, Classic Lodges.

Now, it has revealed that a planning application seeking permission to carry out the repairs is to be submitted.

Richard Grime, managing director of Classic Lodges, in a letter of response to Coun Castle, stated: ‘A significant piece of the balcony became disconnected from the structure of the building in the latter part of last year.

‘The size of the stone clearly caused us to have a serious review of the safety of the balcony. This further led to us establishing that the balcony entire structure was at risk and further that there had been a sizable movement forward of the front stonework in that area, rendering the area by the arch unstable, hence the substantial propping.

‘The listed status of the building makes fast substantial repairs impossible.

‘Initially, to speed up the restoration process and to reduce the significant cost originally scoped at £250,000 we put in a pre-planning enquiry to remove the balcony permanently to stop the loading on the stone wall.

‘This moved to a full planning permission application, however in the process the conservation report we commissioned identified that we would be likely to end up in a protracted planning disagreement.

“We have therefore reverted back to simply submitting a planning application to repair the wall and the balcony.

‘This will be submitted in the next few days. Assuming that we have a favourable response to the planning application, we will then commission the work with an eight-week lead time.

“The work will take approximately a similar time to complete.

‘I appreciate this is a long period, however, without the propping the structure is unsafe.’

Coun Castle, county councillor for Alnwick, said: “I am naturally very pleased to hear that a planning application is imminent and I will certainly ask Northumberland County Council planning officers to expedite this in the circumstances.”

In his letter to Classic Lodges, he had raised concerns about the length of time the scaffolding had been in place.

‘I hardly need emphasise the unfortunate visual prominence of this unsightly and inconvenient structure centrally located in the town’s main high street right next to the iconic Hotspur Tower,’ he wrote. ‘Local people and businesses are particularly keen to see this resolved before the summer season brings many thousands of visitors to our town.

‘Sky One will shortly be starting its second series of a successful six-episode reality crime programme called The Heist and have chosen Alnwick to base it in, sending a large production crew to stay here many months from around March. It would be very sad if this scaffolding were up during filming, as we would wish to see the town and its matchless streetscape presented at its best.’