Great White Horse Hotel change of use withdrawn!

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    Ipswich Ltd
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    We are absolutely delighted that the listed building planning application for The Great White Horse Hotel has been withdrawn!

    We have been informed by Martyn Fulcher BSc(Hons) PGDip MRTPI, Planning and Development Operations Manager:-

    I am able to inform you that the application has now been withdrawn, and therefore no further action will be taken in respect of it.

    We were primarily concerned about the loss of a historical hotel (where there is no reason it couldn’t become a hotel with restaurant and bar on grand floor) and that the application appeared to convert the upper floors into “individual ‘start-up’ suites” (offices) which were likely intended to become residential in future years.

    We are not aware whether this was their game plan but needed to preempt any attempts to abuse what should be a treasured building. It is possible that they or a future owner might re-apply.
    <h3>Ipswich Ltd representation</h3>

    RE: 16/01141/LBC & 16/01142/FUL (famous historic hotel to residential uses via offices)


    Ipswich Ltd recommends that Ipswich Borough Council refuses the application for the Change of use of upper floors from Hotel (C1) to Business Centre (B1) comprising individual ‘start-up’ suites (1,516sqm); part change of use of first floor to A3 cafe restaurant (110sqm) in association with the existing ground floor use; and conversion of the four storey courtyard block into 3x two-bedroom self-contained flats with 2 parking spaces each at 45 Tavern Street.


    There is no doubt the intention of the applicant is to use offices as an intermediary step of converting offices to flats or an HMO at a later date.


    The full reasons why Ipswich Ltd is recommending the council to refuse this planning application is summarised in various sections within this letter. To put this in context a historic summary is presented first as our objection isn’t solely based upon the building (although this is the primary concern) but of the town also.

    Ipswich & Great White Horse Hotel: A brief history


    Ipswich is an Anglo-Saxon town – the ‘golden mile’ from East to West (between the horseshoe configuration of dyke or wall surrounding the town with 3 primary gates in and out) has long been the basis of the settlement.


    The earliest known record of the Great White Horse Hotel goes back to the 14th Century as the White Horse Tavern.  A strategically placed coaching inn between London and other parts of the region such as Lowestoft. The tavern and similar like it were what you could call a precursor to modern motorway service stations.


    The modern day road name Tavern Street was named after the White Horse Tavern.


    Made famous by Charles Dickens – other notable royalty and famous people stayed there too have been quoted over the years including Edward VIII, Louis XVIII, Lord and Lady Hamilton, Lord Nelson, The Beatles, Noddy Holder and Slade.


    The hotel only fell out of fashion when the owners Trust House Forte built the Post House Hotel in the 1960s which was bespoke to their needs. There was very little incentive for them to compete with themselves. At the time only a handful of hotels existed compared to 2016 when the town’s built up area is full of hotels.


    Ipswich was very disinterested in tourism in the 20th century. In the 21st century tourism is a significant part of the local economy employing thousands. The Great White Horse Hotel is part of the town’s heritage. This is in direct contrast to recent emphasis on The Waterfront as the destination of Ipswich – both can exist side-by-side.

    The planning application itself


    Start-up Offices


    No one has ever since the start of time (with the exception to business incubators) marketed new office suites in a brand new business centre as “start-up offices”. What they mean to say is low-grade office accommodation.

    The Ipswich Vision group (of which Ipswich Borough Council is a member) states the following in the Turning Our Town Around document:-


    Demand for office space will be improved through the removal of the over-supply of competing, now poor grade accommodation from the market


    It also says:-


    New high specification office developments should be located in The Franciscan Quarter along the Princes Street corridor from the station to the Willis building


    The Great White Horse Hotel is in the Central Quarter. Although a place for start-ups to thrive would be positive for Ipswich and the Suffolk economy – many options exist in Suffolk Enterprise Centre, The Hub Business Centre and The University Of Suffolk Waterfront Innovation Centre to name just a few of the options – the reasoning behind changing the rooms to B1 consent is to later convert these into apartments or perhaps an HMO. This means the specification of the offices are going to be a very poor grade of accommodation.


    There is absolutely no capacity for parking at this proposed new business centre. There will be no Park & Ride service from 2018. Car parking exists in the town but is too few in number to support the other town developments. Ipswich is growing quickly with the university so the car parking in the town needs to increase to support employment, shoppers needs and visitors to our parks and museums. It is unrealistic to expect more than half of the entrepreneurs and their employees to use the bus. We strongly object to this change of use.


    Self-contained flats


    With ongoing intent to pedestrianise Upper Brook Street access could become a problem. The formation layout of car parking is impractical but overall we do not object to the part of courtyard block conversion to flats in this small number.


    Starbucks extension


    We oppose the change of use for part first floor to A3 usage.


    Starbucks didn’t want to be such a big part of the town by moving out of the Buttermarket Shopping Centre rather than paying for a rent increase. Somehow they thought the shopping centre should be paying for their brand to be in it rather than vice versa. The problem for them is since they did this the town has been improving for the better and after realising how vibrant the place is becoming they now they want a bigger slice of the pie!


    However, the reason we are against the part first floor A3 conversion is not based upon the tenant. (For many students, not having a Starbucks is like not having an iphone.) We simply want the hotel to remain as such. By making the hotel smaller it becomes less viable.

    Future intentions for such building


    It is our view that the landlord wishes to convert the entire upper floors (except the A3 extension) into residential.


    The council makes it clear that they wish to see more housing in the town centre.


    To quote the Ipswich Vision document:-


    There is an opportunity for up to 2,000 new homes in the town centre over the next 10 years.


    However, there is reservation to “just flats” and it being as part of the Central Quarter:-


    New homes will revitalise the town centre and there is considerable opportunity to develop new residential accommodation within The Eastgate, Westgate, Waterfront, Riverside and Saints Quarters. However, this should be more than just flats and apartments and must incorporate town housing, particularly for families, young people, supported living and more elderly residents to complement development elsewhere.


    Of great irony, the Revitalising Ipswich part continues…


    Where possible, newly constructed town houses will combine with those created from the conversion back to housing of historic buildings – much of which has most recently been used for office accommodation.


    This is a direct reference to the houses in Museum St and doesn’t quite fit the hotel although it is close enough.


    Future opportunities


    Although the council is on to something about town centre housing – to ensure the maximum extent of vibrancy for the town centre some available accommodation needs to be aimed at short-term stays including as short as a single night to cater for the day visitors the town is trying to attract.


    The council needs to be flexible and realistic about planning in respects to the listed building to ensure it can play an important active role in 21st century Ipswich. The external fabric must remain the same but due regard for internal modifications for modernisation, should be realised.


    If the reasons why the hotel is alleged to be unviable as a modern hotel is simply due to lack of en-suite facilities, the landlord should be allowed to make these changes whilst keeping many of the original features as possible.


    Ironically, 50 years ago the building was to be demolished. If it wasn’t rebuilt as a shop it would be apartments. After the Ipswich Society spent so much effort preventing this, all efforts should be on keeping the original use. The premises are suitable for a ground floor pub, restaurant and hotel on the upper floors.


    Once the short-lived business centre fails (if it is indeed nothing more than a half-baked intermediary step), the council will have to allow internal modifications for the offices to become flats anyway.




    Until such features get lost over time; there will be confusion surrounding having an office or a flat at a building called The Great White Horse Hotel or for visitors trying to get a room for the night which is a current problem.

    Call from the past


    Nine years ago the applicant had a very different view asking Ipswich Borough Council to safeguard the future of the hotel. It was published in the Evening Star and is available online¹ with the article title “Hotel’s £2million sale plea” and date 18 October 2007 (14:03). Added emphasis in bold.


    AN IPSWICH property developer today called on town chiefs to help safeguard the future of the historic Great White Horse hotel.


    Ian Reid, Citygate Developments director, asked Ipswich Borough Council to be sympathetic to whoever takes on the freehold for the Grade II listed building, which went on sale for £2million this week.


    He said: “It’s such an individual building with such a lot of character. It’s part of the town’s heritage but it badly needs investment.”


    Ipswich Ltd asks the council to uphold the prior views of the applicant and for the benefit of residents and tourists alike to refuse planning permission for the Change of use of upper floors from Hotel (C1) to Business Centre (B1) comprising individual ‘start-up’ suites (1,516sqm); part change of use of first floor to A3 cafe restaurant (110sqm) in association with the existing ground floor use; and conversion of the four storey courtyard block into 3x two-bedroom self-contained flats with 2 parking spaces each.


    Other notable quote from the article includes:-


    Agent Tim Gooding of Christie & Co, in Ipswich, said: “The hotel is one of the best known properties in the town centre and, given its location, we believe there will be strong interest from developers and potential operators alike.”


    ¹ Online Reference:


    Other Views


    We are disappointed that current chairman of the Ipswich Society, John Norman, isn’t opposing the plans; however, the Ipswich Society is only concerned of the building rather than its use. They fought hard in the early 1970s to prevent it being demolished – which is much appreciated and why it has been mentioned in this letter.


    We are sure he would have balanced the historic building going to ruin Vs houses and decided anything is better than nothing. What the Ipswich Society has overlooked is although the building will structurally remain the same it won’t prevent the decorative parts disappearing over time. This includes the lettering, the Suffolk Punch horse (although not the original one), the lamps and the hanging sign around the side.


    Undisclosed Interests
    Ipswich Central were very vocal on this too. Chairman Terry Baxter is quoted of having said:


    “We have said for some time that the nature of the town centre has to change, it isn’t just about retail and historic hotels.”


    “This looks like a great proposal and will help bring very welcome new jobs into the heart of the town.”


    What he didn’t mention was despite businesses such as Ipswich Town and Waterfront doing most of the promotional work for the town; Ipswich Central has formed a DMO called “Greater Ipswich DMO Ltd” (you wouldn’t have heard of it – the ‘M’ is for marketing – would you believe?).


    Not only is he and Paul Clement from Ipswich Central directors of this marketing business, so is Alex Paul. The below is a snippet of the company officers registered at Companies House (data freely available):


    CLEMENT, Paul

    Date of birth:                    January 1965

    Appointed on:                    22 April 2015

    Nationality:                       British

    Country of residence:         United Kingdom

    Occupation:                       Director

    BAXTER, Terence George
    Date of birth:                     September 1960

    Appointed on:                    15 August 2016

    Nationality:                       British

    Country of residence:         England

    Occupation:                       Director

    PAUL, Alexander Hugh


    Date of birth:                     May 1969

    Appointed on:                    15 August 2016

    Nationality:                       British

    Country of residence:         England

    Occupation:                       Director


    The fact it is limited by guarantee seems to suggest they intend to apply for grants or taxpayer funding. Could this be the same Alex Paul the Sales & Marketing Director² of Gough Hotels which owns the SaltHouse Harbour Hotel at the waterfront?


    Why would they want increased competition in the town centre?


    Ipswich Ltd is only interested in what is best for the town. The last thing they could hope for is another 4-star (perhaps 5-star) boutique hotel in the heart of the town close to all the restaurants, shops, pubs, museums, parks and theatres – this time with actual notable guests and extensive history to boot.


    Highly unlikely? I am not too sure what they are so concerned about!


    ² Alex Paul on LinkedIn:


    20th Century Ipswich Vs Modern Ipswich


    Approximately a third of the people I have spoken to about the Great White Horse Hotel conversion have said the same thing, about how times have changed and there is no longer a use for it. However, these people are still talking about 1970s sleepy-town Ipswich. In the 20th Century tourism wasn’t a major importance for Ipswich – we just had a tourist information centre where any visitors coming here could stumble by for information. There was no organisation to place market or manage the CBD. Our history had no significance outside the museum. People came into town to either work or shop.


    The owner of the hotel at the time only closed the hotel because they built a much bigger out-of-town bespoke hotel with plenty of car parking close to a primary A road. This was at a time when Ipswich didn’t have budget hotels of the likes of Travelodge, Premier Inn, Marston Inns, soon-to-open EasyHotel and various more non-chain hotels. In the view of the owner at the time, there was clearly one winner from the old hotel and the new one – and it was be uneconomical to run both. Ipswich didn’t have the modern gravitas to support it in the 1970s.


    Over the next few decades Ipswich has deteriorated as the County Town of Suffolk with Bury St Edmunds making a lot of ground. Ipswich lost all relevance of being the County Town; this didn’t mean anything other than where Suffolk County Council was primarily based rather than being a city-like hub for the county.


    The defacto pubs in the town are currently The Cricketers and The Robert Ransome. We have no doubt that if the ground floor remained a pub it would be as equally as popular. Not only is the Georgian façade attractive but there are more beautiful buildings opposite to be viewed from the hotel. With plans of shortening the length of the town centre it shows how significant such a building could be.  EasyHotel Plc wouldn’t be creating a hotel next-door if it wasn’t a viable option to have a town centre hotel. Fact. It won’t be the last town centre hotel. As of September their freehold hotels are London, Glasgow and Croydon. Ipswich will add to this list – not as a franchise. They are on to something. It is a significant commercial decision to own rather than operate as a franchise; there is much larger towns and cities they could pick for a hotel – so potential for town centre hotels is very strong.


    The Great White Horse Hotel is located a close walking distance to everything great about Ipswich:- Christchurch Park and Mansion, Ipswich Museum, The Regent, Town Hall and Corn Exchange, the entire town centre and shopping centres, the central library, Ipswich & Suffolk Club, our churches and even the main bus station for connections elsewhere in the town and county and to the rail station for further afield.


    The difference in the 21st Century for Ipswich is colossal. People come into the town for leisure purposes, not just to shop. More emphasis is on our museums which get marketed far and wide. What once was a wet dock of disused buildings is now the waterfront with the university, restaurants and accommodation. We have Ipswich Central which runs the BID zone. The internet has made it much easier to promote the town and websites such as TripAdvisor, Google and Facebook provide important tools to realise this. We now have a university at last which is the main catalyst of why Ipswich has been lucky enough to obtain so much investment post-recession.


    The past “sleepy town” attitudes need to be assigned to the dustbin of history. Ipswich is a growing vibrant county town which needs to think more as if it was a city (the status itself isn’t important). It needs to attract more people from the county as a destination in addition to attracting people far and wide. Ipswich now has a significant tourism industry. Other places have done well by “name-dropping” famous people who have visited or stayed.


    The council should refuse this planning application and consider a Compulsory Purchase Order if the premises is not brought back into use as a hotel by 2020. This building could easily become a successful pub, restaurant and hotel.

    #3470 Score: 0
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    Of no surprise after consultation with IBC, they have resubmitted the application (with some minor tweaks) and looks like it will get approved this time round.

    Change of use of upper floors from Hotel (C1) to Business Centre (B1) comprising individual ‘start-up’ suites (1,516sqm); part change of use of first floor to A3 cafe restaurant (110sqm) in association with the existing ground floor use; and conversion of four storey courtyard block into 6x one bedroom self-contained flats.


    Looking into the information they previously tried to convert the hotel into student accommodation… no doubt this is why the resubmission of the application with one bedroom self-contained flats (instead of half the number of two bedroom flats) as a starting point before converting the remainder of the office suites into flats at a later date. Shame on IBC.

    We will consider whether making a representation or just let the town deteriorate further to rock-bottom. This is little different to having an apartment in Electric House because of past occupants. More could have been done with the Great White Horse Hotel but it is a changing world of attitudes and it isn’t exactly like the council is even doing something proactive with Ancient House either or promoting anything other than the Ipswich Waterfront.

    #3478 Score: 0
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    Star tells a different story, application still under consideration?


    I'm really quite cross now, so watch out!

    #3483 Score: 0
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    This is what prompted me to look into it.

    They withdrew their previous application (16/01142/FUL) and seems early this month to resubmit it (17/00320/FUL) changing the accommodation element from 3 x two bedroom flats to 6 x one bedroom flats. This is after discussions with IBC.

    I would have missed it if not browsing the Ipswich Star website.

    Is there much point in trying to keep the Great White Horse Hotel as a (disused) hotel waiting for someone to pursue this avenue? Or are Ipswich Society right into “any use is better than none” by converting it to flats?

    Perhaps a (literary) museum? Lost pubs museum? In Ipswich it is either the case “someone is already doing it” or “no-one is currently doing it” as excuses of not differentiating the town from others.

    Such a shame, residing in the East Central part of town compromising Wolseys Gate, St Peters, Custom House, Blackfriars Ruins, St Stephens Church/TIC, Ancient House,  St Lawrence Church, Croydons (not old but interesting building), St Mary-le-Tower, Pykenham’s Gatehouse, Ipswich County Library, Ipswich Freemasons Hall, Christchurch Mansion, St Margarets Church etc. all within reasonable walking distance from each other.

    #3486 Score: 0
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    sorry, scrolled right past your last update, hence my post an hour os so later!.

    I'm really quite cross now, so watch out!

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