Thursday 29 September 2016

Developers given go ahead to demolish Fawlty Towers hotel

Published 26/11/2015 | 15:01

Prunella Scales, John Cleese, Connie Booth and Andrew Sachs all acted in Fawlty Towers, which ran for just 12 episodes
Prunella Scales, John Cleese, Connie Booth and Andrew Sachs all acted in Fawlty Towers, which ran for just 12 episodes

The world-famous hotel which inspired Fawlty Towers is to be knocked down after developers secured permission to convert the site into a retirement home.

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John Cleese based the iconic sitcom on the Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay, Devon, after staying there with the Monty Python team in 1973.

Former owner Donald Sinclair unwittingly became the inspiration for Cleese's neurotic character Basil Fawlty.

The 41-bedroom hotel ceased trading early this year and Churchill Retirement Living applied to use the site for 36 retirement apartments.

Torbay Council's development management committee denied the application as they felt it was "too large and unsympathetic to the area".

But today, the authority announced that the second scheme to be submitted by Churchill Retirement Living had been successful.

This will involve knocking down the three-star hotel and building 21 one-bed and 11 two-bedroom apartments, with a guest suite and two communal lounges.

Councillor Mark King, executive lead for planning, transport and housing at the council, described the scheme as "the best result".

"This is a great outcome for the iconic Gleneagles Hotel site and I look forward to seeing the new development taking shape," Cllr King said.

"Our development management committee, officers and the independent design review panel have worked well together to achieve the right result for the area and, importantly, obtain a much better proposal for the site and the best result for the local community, the council and the developer."

In the committee report, case officer Matt Diamond writes: "The application is for the change of use and redevelopment of the currently vacant, three star Gleneagles Hotel, Asheldon Road, Torquay, into a block of 32 retirement apartments for the elderly, with 12 car parking spaces.

"The existing building on the site will be demolished.

"The hotel was the inspiration for the BBC Fawlty Towers TV series."

The proposed apartment block will be split level, with five storeys to the front and six storeys to the rear, and will include landscaped gardens and the existing woodland.

Planning officers allowed the change of use of the site from tourist accommodation to residential as the former hotel was "commercially unviable", the report added.

This is because the hotel is situated in a residential neighbourhood, with "little passing trade" and at a distance from the town and harbour, it said.

In Fawlty Towers, Basil's escapades included trying to hide a rat from a hygiene inspector and pretending that his wife Sybil was ill during their anniversary party when she had left him.

Andrew Sachs's character, well-meaning but dim waiter Manuel, suffered verbal assaults from Basil on a regular basis.

The show, voted number one in the British Film Institute's 100 Greatest Television Programmes in 200, ran for just 12 episodes.

Mark Kingscote, chairman of Torbay Council's development management committee, added: " The committee's members and officers work hard to achieve really high quality design for new developments in Torbay.

"T he original scheme from Churchill was well below the standard we look for and with the inspector's report supporting our decision to refuse planning permission we have now managed to secure and approve this better designed scheme for the site. "

The development, featuring self-contained apartments for the over 60s, will not have any care or assisted living element to it.

It will be scheduled for completion in early 2017, with owners benefiting from a lodge manager, 24-hour careline, owner's lounge, guest suite and laundry room.

Andrew Burgess, planning director of Churchill Retirement Living, said: " The original hotel will be demolished, but in its place will be 32 apartments, for those aged 60 and above, built to our high design and quality.

"Like its former guests, we're sure new owners of the apartments will appreciate the development's brilliant location and perhaps have a laugh at its quirky history.

"We know how much the site means to people, and once construction starts we'll be sure to produce something that Basil would be proud of."

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