New chapter begins for historic Harborough hotel after plans are approved
Concerns were raised but the application was overwhelmingly backed
One of Market Harborough’s most historic hotels is to be turned into a major new educational base for Brooke House College.
The 500-year-old Angel Hotel on the town’s High Street – which closed in March last year – will be used by the international school to put up 42 boarding students and three live-in staff.
Brooke House College, which boasts 234 day and boarding pupils from 59 countries, will also set up a new catering facility serving about 1,000 meals a day after their scheme was approved by Harborough council’s planning committee last night (Tuesday).
Showcasing the bold blueprint, Giles Williams, the college’s managing director, told councillors they had built up a “symbiotic relationship” with Market Harborough over the last few decades.
Mr Williams said their students spend about £1 million in the town centre every year with footfall on the High Street increasing all the time.
The world-renowned college also employs 105 staff – making it one of Market Harborough’s biggest employers.
Mr Williams said they gave “commercial vitality” to the town and “gave back to it in so many ways”, including actively supporting the local football and cricket clubs as well as charities.
“We aspire to be a great asset to Market Harborough,” he told the meeting.
Brooke House College principal Mike Oliver said they had been established in the heart of Market Harborough for over 50 years.
He said the ambitious initiative to move into the Grade II-listed coaching inn the Angel was “absolutely critical” to their future expansion.
Brooke House College currently has 234 pupils from across the globe – and could grow to a maximum of 300 students.
The school charges boarding students about £34,000-a-year.
“The college is mindful of its responsibility to preserve one of the town’s most historic buildings,” said Mr Oliver.
The college plans to turn one of the 16th century hotel’s old stable blocks into a TV area and games room for students.
Mr Oliver said they would give the local economy an even bigger boost as Market Harborough battles to bounce back from the devastating Covid pandemic.
But Cllr Barry Frenchman said he was worried that Brooke House College was taking up units scattered all over the town.
The combative Conservative councillor labelled some of them “shabby” and not maintained to the “best standards”.
Cllr Frenchman, who represents the town’s Welland ward, also insisted that Market Harborough needed more hotel rooms not less.
The meeting also heard from Cllr Dominic Fosker as he slammed the scheme.
“The Angel Hotel is a landmark pub in Market Harborough’s High Street, occupying a prominent location on the north side of the town.
“It is also a public amenity and social hub – hard to replace like for like if this application goes through.
“Even if the frontage were not to remain as a pub, it’s the kind of location that would much better suit a café, or even a shop, than yet another Brooke House dormitory.
“Town residents complain about the number of houses purchased by the College, and now residents complain that they are ‘buying up the High Street’.
“We also get complaints about the upkeep and appearance of Brooke House properties,” said Cllr Fosker, of Market Harborough’s Logan ward.
“For the above reasons I object to this application, and would advise that the applicant is made aware of concerns locally and, in the interests of their reputation, seeks to improve their properties.”
His fellow Liberal Democrat councillor Cllr Barbara Johnson also had her comments read out by Cllr Barry Champion, the planning committee’s chairman.
“The Angel Hotel is a Grade II-listed building.
“Since the 1500s, this has been an inn - offering accommodation, food and drink.
“It is a much-cherished community facility as, for many years, it has also provided valuable community meeting rooms – for town groups and business groups, for example, the local Historical Society, Civic Society, Rugby and Squash clubs, U3A groups and families.
“It is part of the town’s heritage in this way.
“It is important that people continue to experience a sense of history and hospitality combined – an important and memorable contribution to our town,” said Cllr Johnson.
“So many memories have been made here.
“Market Harborough is lacking in meeting facilities anyway.
“And given the considerable new housing coming on stream this situation is only going to get worse.
“I very much hope that the applicant will understand this need in our community and make every effort to provide rooms at The Angel for meetings in future.”
Despite her concerns Brooke House College’s ambitious application was overwhelmingly backed, with just Cllr Frenchman opposing it.