Plans to convert former Peebles hotel into flats given thumbs-up

How the extension proposed for the old Castle Venlaw Hotel in Peebles would look.
How the extension proposed for the old Castle Venlaw Hotel in Peebles would look.

A historic hotel in Peebles looks set to be turned into flats now councillors have approved conversion plans drawn up by its owners.

The former Castle Venlaw Hotel has been up for sale for over three years but has been vacant since owners Roy and Lorna Curry closed the business in December 2017, having failed to find a buyer.

Now, the couple are proposing to convert the 12-bedroom Edinburgh Road hotel, on Venlaw Hill, into eight separate residences, as well as adding an extension to the north side of the building to house a further three flats.

The Currys have submitted two sets of plans as their first suggested design triggered an objection from Historic Environment Scotland due to concerns that the extension proposed would “result in significant negative intervention affecting the special architectural and historic interest of Castle Venlaw”.

The second proposal is largely the same, but rather than being housed in an extension, the new flats would be built two metres away from the main building as a stand-alone development.

Scottish Borders Council’s planning and building standards committee gave its blessing to both conversion bid options today, March 25, but because Castle Venlaw is a category-B listed building, the proposals now need further approval from the Scottish Government.

Appearing before the committee on behalf of the Currys, planning consultant Derek Scott said: “Roy and Lorna Curry are two very experienced hoteliers and have owned and operated a number of such hotels in the last 30 years.

“With that experience and the benefit of local knowledge, they were confident that they could turn the hotel into a profitable enterprise. Unfortunately, that was not to be the case.

“In the first four years of their ownership, during which neither partner withdrew a salary, they incurred financial losses in excess of £100,000 per annum.

“Our clients will only recover a fraction of their losses from this project.

“There a number of planning issues to be considered.

“The first is the overriding need to find an alternative use for this vacant listed building, the condition of which, as already evidenced through dampness and water penetration, could deteriorate very quickly.

“The second is the principle of changing the building’s use to residential accommodation.

“Given its marketing and trading history, it is clear that the property is not suitable, nor does it offer significant potential, for use as a hotel.

“Converting the property to residential use seems the most obvious and logical option.”

The oldest part of Castle Venlaw dates back to 1782, and other parts of the building were added in 1854 and 1892.

The oldest part is rectangular in design and the later part, to the south, is a three-storey baronial towerhouse.

The castle was converted into a hotel in 1949 and it was bought by the Currys in 2011 through their Irish-registered company Rikeja.

Galashiels councillor Sandy Aitchison said: “It’s obvious that a hotel of that size isn’t viable, so from that point of view I’d be happy with this.

“I’d prefer it was occupied rather than left vacant, so I have no formal objection to this. I think this design is a really strong attempt to fit in with what is there and I wish them luck.”

Jedburgh councillor Scott Hamilton told the committee: “I think there is no problem with the change of use and, having looked at the plans, the design of the extension is very sympathetic to the current building.

“I disagree with Historic Environment Scotland’s objection regarding scale and mass.

“On balance, I do support this application.”