AN elegant but fading Victorian hall near Dolphinhome is to be converted and extended into a five star hotel and wedding venue over the next two years.
Planning permission for the £4m project at Wyreside Hall was approved at last Wednesday’s meeting of Wyre planning committee.
Residents living in and around the village had been split over the plans by owner Wyreside Hall Limited, which announced the scheme late last year.
About 90 people packed into the public gallery at Wyre Civic Centre, Poulton, to hear the debate. None of the supporters in the gallery volunteered to speak in the public session, leaving the floor open to members of the Protect Wyresdale action group to air their worries.
Dr Graham Chapman compared the plan with the ‘luxury white elephant’ flat block on Knott End seafront, and voiced concerns about “floods of cars” leaving the new hotel on the country lanes after wedding functions.
Nigel Gilliat claimed many supporters attending the meeting were connected with the building or linked to haulage firms involved in the project.
Kate Dixon was worried about the loss of heritage, and pointed out there had been objections from the Victorian Society and the Ancient Monument Society, while Pat Chilton applied Prince Charles’ often-quoted words – “a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much loved and elegant friend” to the scheme.
Andrew Birchall, of Corless Mill Farm, voiced concerns about an increase in light pollution, claiming the owners were already using “lurid orange flood lights.” He said there had been no curlews or oyster catchers nesting since the owners began tree clearances.
Agent for the project, Graham Salisbury, said building heritage expert Chris O’Flaherty had been advising on the project.
He added there had been no objection from Nether Wyresdale or Ellel parish councils or highway chiefs, and the “30 to 40 full time jobs” created would be welcomed.
When it came to the councillors’ debate, mayor-elect Coun Don Lawrenson of Pilling doubted any effect on wildlife. He added enterprise to create jobs neded to be encouraged.
Coun Paul Moon (Preesall), who proposed acceptance of the plans, wondered how the hall’s fortunes would be improved if the hotel and extension plan was not approved.
He said “At the end of the day, the building needs to be developed and enhanced so people can enjoy the vista and the building itself.”
The two councillors who were unhappy with aspects of the plans were Coun Lady Dulcie Atkins (Garstang) and Coun David Williams (Calder).
Coun Williams commented: “England’s green and pleasant land is diminishing. We need to retain what little heritage we have left in this country.”
After the vote on the proposal went 10 to 2 in support, there were loud cheers from the majority of people in the gallery.
l See letters page six.