Fight is on to save Harpenden’s last hotel

Michael Weaver, cllr, Keller Pelton with Jude and Saskia Delany, Hillary Taylor, Emma Wykes, Paul Ho

Michael Weaver, cllr, Keller Pelton with Jude and Saskia Delany, Hillary Taylor, Emma Wykes, Paul Howe, Nicky Simons and Pip Martyn stand outside Harpenden House Hotel - Credit: Archant

Fears over the closure of Harpenden’s last hotel have prompted more than 1,000 people to sign a petition in a last-ditch bid to stop it closing its doors in spring.

Harpenden House Hotel, Southdown Road, has been sold to Fairview New Homes, making 55 employees redundant from April 3.

The sale also left at least 50 future brides and grooms without a wedding venue, and will leave the town without a hotel as the Glen Eagle Manor Hotel has been demolished.

A dismayed local resident, John Hansen, has launched a campaign to save Harpenden House and stop it from being turned into homes.

He has started a petition calling upon St Albans district council to grant the building community asset status, to protect it.

John said: “Losing the only remaining hotel will potentially be disastrous for the town.

“The hotel is part of the lifeblood for a balanced community. It is a true asset to our town that we cannot afford to lose.”

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The e-petition states that it intends pushing for Harpenden House to be listed as an asset with the aim of preventing any change of use being granted, and enable its continued use as a hotel.

It goes on: “A hotel is a vital part of the life of a town and is a key factor in differentiating a dormitory town from a living vibrant town.”

Co-founder of the petition, Hillary Taylor, said that the council has previously indicated it would support the retention of certain community facilities.

Supporters of the hotel include a Harpenden resident of 53 years, Alan Bunting.

He has written to the council’s portfolio holder for planning, Cllr Julian Daly, to express his shock at the closure.

Alan told Cllr Daly that while there was a nationwide shortage of housing, turning the town’s last hotel into homes is unlikely to benefit Harpenden or the country’s homeless.

He urged the council to reject any proposal to build homes on the site, saying, “planning decisions should be based on more than simple economics”.

He added: “All too often applications for new housing developments in our area are nodded through because the district council and, or, Herts county council can see their coffers benefiting from more council tax revenue.”

Cllr Daly told the Herts Advertiser: “I don’t want to see the loss of Harpenden’s last hotel, but I haven’t seen a planning application yet.”