A project to transform what is thought to be Eastbourne’s oldest building into a training hotel has been backed by a group of historic planning advisors.
A change of use application for Langney Priory in Etchingham Road, a Grade II* listed property which dates back to the 11th century, was considered by Eastbourne Borough Council’s Conservation Area Advisory Group on Tuesday (July 2).
The application, which is expected to go before town planners in the coming weeks, comes as the first step in a wider project to convert the historic building into a working hotel where people can train as hospitality workers.
Before coming to their decision, advisors heard from Eco Chateau CEO Charlie Turner, the group set to develop the site in partnership with Historic Langney Priory Limited.
Mr Turner said: “It is a very special building, it is important in relation to the history of Eastbourne and arguably the oldest standing building in Eastbourne.
“We see what we are proposing as being something which has got the opportunity to both preserve and enhance the existing buildings.
“The use we are proposing is to create a training hotel, where we will be having a strong focus on people from marginalised groups being able to access both training and employment opportunities.
“Our focus will be working with people with learning disabilities and indeed young people who are experiencing challenges in education and making their way in the world.
“We are very much looking at creating a resource for the local community.”
Mr Turner also said the team behind the project are in the process of seeking lottery funding for renovation works. Other funding sources are to be sought from community and institutional shares, the advisors heard.
Further applications for these renovations and conversion works are expected to come forward in the near future, should the change of use be approved (and funding secured).
According to the team behind the project, the works would be likely to include: internal changes to move the building’s staircase back to its original position; replacing the roof; and installing ensuite bathrooms for hotel rooms.
The team would also be looking to create a training kitchen somewhere within the site, although the details of the proposals have yet to be finalised.
Outside of the main building the team will be looking to convert a former cow shed, boathouse and dairy building into holiday chalets, as well as erecting yurts or camping pods within the grounds.
As a Grade II* listed building, Historic England will be involved in examining these proposals.
The concept of the project won the support of the advisory group, although members warned they would reserve judgement on the specific works until more details come forward.
Cllr Colin Belsey (Con, Ratton) said: “If nobody does anything to it, it will fall into disrepair.
“I think it does both. A, it preserves what is there and B, it enhances what could be a dilapidated building in 10 years time.
“It is terribly important and I wish them well with what they are trying to do.”
The view was shared by advisory group chairman Pat Rodohan (Lib Dem, Upperton), who said: “I have to say I endorse the principle of the change of use.
“I think it is a way of preserving the building and hopefully enhancing it in the future.
“As a building for community use I think it will be invaluable in the town and for the tourist industry as well.”
Following a short discussion, the advisory group agreed to support the principle of the change of use on the grounds it would preserve and enhance the building.
This advice will be considered by town planners when the application comes before them in the near future.
For further details of the proposals see application reference 190202 on the Eastbourne Borough Council website. For more details of the wider project go to: https://www.historiclangneypriory.com/index.php