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Newbury Racecourse gets green light for 76-bed hotel

District council approves plans for three-storey extension to The Lodge

Dan Cooper

Dan Cooper

dan.cooper@newburynews.co.uk

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01635 886632

Newbury Racecourse responds to criticism over hotel plans

NEWBURY Racecourse has been granted permission to turn The Lodge into a permanent hotel.

It has also been given the green light to build a three-storey extension on the existing building, which will more than double the number of rooms from 36 to 76.

In its application, the racecourse said the increased capacity would “assist in maintaining Newbury Racecourse’s role as a premier sporting and major events venue, which acts as a major tourist attraction and economic driver within the Newbury area”.

The Lodge was built to provide accommodation for stable staff on race days.

However, in 2016 the racecourse applied for permission for it to be used as temporary accommodation for 305 days a year.

And earlier this year, the racecourse submitted two planning applications – one for the change of use to a permanent hotel and another for the extension.

Councillors approved both applications at last Wednesday’s West Berkshire Council western area planning committee meeting, despite hearing objections from local residents.

One of them, Raymond Beard, said that he was often disturbed by groups of people making noise outside his house late at night.

Mr Beard told the committee: “This is a repeated issue that has not been addressed – there isn’t any effective control of this problem.”

However, councillors were satisfied that the racecourse’s noise management plan, submitted as part of its application, would resolve this.

Councillor Jeff Beck said: “I accept the fact that there have been noise problems.

“Hopefully the [noise management] condition we impose will be effective and I urge residents not to be shy of approaching the environmental officer at West Berkshire Council with their complaints.”

The racecourse’s planning agent, Catherine Tyrer, said: “The original accommodation provided accommodation for stable hands.

“However, most staff usually travel home and on an average race day we only get 10 staying.”

She said it would therefore not make sense for it to remain as a hostel as it would remain “severely underoccupied”.

Newbury Racecourse finance director Claire Spencer said The Lodge had proven itself to be commercially viable as a hotel.

She added that the extension would increase the racecourse’s ability to host conferences, saying: “At the moment The Lodge is too small to cater for some and we have to turn them down.”

The meeting heard how the coffee shop at The Lodge was also regularly used by residents and community groups – something councillors were keen to see continued.

Councillors were told that a highways officer had expressed “some concern” that the extension will result in the loss of 16 car parking spaces.

However, planning officer Simon Till said it was “in the racecourse’s own interest to effectively manage parking on site”.

Greenham parish councillor Ken Neal said he was concerned about security and privacy as the hotel would overlook the Rocking Horse Nursery.

However, Mr Till said officers had “no concern over security or privacy”, adding that no objections had been received by the nursery itself.

He added that the hotel would be 50 metres away from the nursery, whereas The Lodge is only 35 metres.

Newbury Racecourse’s chief executive Julian Thick said the racecourse had “always had an aspiration to have a substantial hotel on the site”.

He said that spending £20m on a hotel would be a “huge bet” and believed it was more prudent to invest the money in the racing infrastructure instead.

The council’s executive member for planning, Hilary Cole, said: “I am in support of this application.

“However, the accommodation [at The Lodge] is extremely luxurious for overnight stays for stable lads, which makes me wonder whether or not a hotel was the intention all along.”

Adrian Abbs (Lib Dem), voted against the plans, saying: “I remain unconvinced by this application. They have given no thought to the residents, who are going to suffer.”

As part of the ongoing 1,500-home development at the racecourse, planning permission exists for a 123-bedroom hotel at the east of the course.

However, the racecourse will formally rescind permission for the original hotel now the plans for The Lodge have been approved. 

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