Historic Hall to become country house hotel?

By 14th October 2011George and Dragon, News

PLANS have been unveiled to give a new lease of life to a historic Eden property by turning it into a hotel.

Charles Lowther is applying for planning and listed building consent from the Lake District National Park Authority to change the use of Askham Hall, Askham. His mother, Caroline Countess of Lonsdale, has lived at the hall for some 40 years and is now passing it on to her son.

The planning application submitted to the national park authority states that the scheme would showcase the character and identity of the Grade I listed building by converting it into a country house hotel.

It would safeguard the future of the property, which dates back over 700 years, and would bring spin-offs for the local economy, including the creation of a number of new jobs.

Under the proposals, Askham Hall would eventually be transformed into a 26-bedroom boutique hotel with dining facilities for 50-60 people. There would also be a spa and treatment facility, a flexible space for hire and a tea room.

Explaining the thinking behind the project, Mr. Lowther told the Herald: “We wanted to do something that was sensitive and in keeping with the character of the property. It’s a very picturesque, beautiful setting and a very lovely building, and we wanted to continue its life in a proactive and positive way.”

Mr. Lowther said the hall was expensive to maintain and turning it into a hotel would mean it could pay for itself “without damaging the integrity of the building”.

The proposed hotel would be opened in phases, with 13 bedrooms initially. If the scheme secures planning approval, it is hoped the hotel will open in 2013. It would create between 15 and 20 jobs, although the number could rise in future years.

The hotel plans for Askham Hall could also work well with the Lowther Castle and Gardens project.

Mr. Lowther and his mother own the George and Dragon at Clifton. Mr. Lowther said his wife, Juno, along with Chris Curry, general manager of the George and Dragon, and head chef Paul McKinnon would play major roles in the Askham Hall hotel project.

Architectural practice Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, which drew up the plans, says in the application that the design approach to the scheme will “protect, preserve and enhance the historic site, bringing important architectural and historic features back to life and complementing it with high quality contemporary additions”.

A document included in the planning application said repair works were needed to ensure the “long-term survival of the buildings and the estate”.

The plans also include a new garden room on the east elevation, to increase dining space, parking areas for hotel guests and garden visitors, and an LPG compound hidden by existing hedges.