Harpenden’s last hotel to close

Harpenden House Hotel

Harpenden House Hotel - Credit: Archant

The only remaining hotel in Harpenden will shut its doors this spring after a shock sale which could see it developed into a housing scheme.

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

At least 50 future brides and grooms have now been left without a wedding venue following the unexpected deal.

Gary Pitts was told on Valentine’s Day by the hotel that his marriage plans were in jeopardy – a mere two months before his big day.

He said: “All of a sudden to get a phone call in that way is just horrible.

“And to have to tell your fiancée all your wedding plans are up in the air and for it to be Valentine’s Day – she broke down in tears. It’s just a horrible situation.”

Gary and Stefanie Hulme, who are to be married on April 17, first visited the hotel in April last year but there was no mention of the sale and they were allowed to book.

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Harpenden House Hotel has said they will refund the couple’s £1,000 deposit but none of the additional costs incurred, such as void invitations.

Fortunately the pair have not had to change the date of their wedding and have secured a ceremony at the same day and time at Sopwell House Hotel in St Albans.

But the lighting salesman said: “As long as I’ve got her next to me on the day nothing else really matters.”

Michael Weaver, Harpenden town councillor, said the “tragic” sale of the hotel would be detrimental to the town’s trade as it was “just a stone’s throw from the centre”.

He said: “I want to know why we can’t support a hotel in a thriving place like Harpenden.

“It’s a bit of a disaster in many ways because we lost the Glen Eagle and now we’re losing this hotel. I would have thought with the closure of the Glen Eagle, they [Harpenden House Hotel] would have capitalised.

“It does seem to be throughout the country that middle-range hotels do seem to be feeling the pinch a bit.”

The Georgian hotel, that has a Grade II listed main building, is valued in the region of £6 million and had a turnover of £2,435,444 at the year end of 2012.

A Harpenden Society spokesman said the group was concerned to hear about the sale of the site: “The hotel has long been a valued part of Harpenden’s infrastructure, providing an important service for both residents and visitors alike.

“It would be a great loss if it is closed down. The Society is concerned that this may be yet another example of where the market value of housing development is allowed to trump all other considerations, thereby gradually reducing the overall quality of life in the town and the services it provides to its residents.”

Kath Webster-Brown, general manager, said: “While we continue to operate the hotel and up until its closure date, we will endeavour to offer our guests the highest standards of hospitality and care and work with those future guests that this affects to ensure that any disruption and concern is kept to a minimum.”