Scottish Government to have final say on plans to convert former Peebles hotel into flats

Venlaw Castle in Peebles.
Venlaw Castle in Peebles.

A decision on a bid to convert a historic hotel into residential flats is to be made by the Scottish Government rather than council planners here.

The former Castle Venlaw Hotel in Peebles has been up for sale for over three years and has been vacant since owners Roy and Lorna Curry closed it to guests in December 2017.

Now, the couple are hoping to convert the 12-bedroom hotel, in Edinburgh Road, into eight separate residences and to add an extension to its north side including a further three homes.

However, their plans have sparked an objection from Historic Environment Scotland as it fears such an extension would “result in significant negative intervention affecting the special architectural and historic interest of Castle Venlaw”.

The proposals were first considered at a meeting of Scottish Borders Council’s planning and building standards committee in March, with councillors voting unanimously to approve them, but the objection from Historic Environment Scotland has led to the intervention of the Scottish Government.

The Currys must now convince Scottish Government reporter Derek Scott, using delegated powers on behalf of Scottish housing ministers, to approve their plans too. 

A supporting statement submitted by Edinburgh-based planning consultant Derek Scott reads: “The hotel has failed to operate as a profitable commercial enterprise for the past six years, having been bought out of administration by the present owners in November 2011. 

“Attempts to market the hotel as a going concern since July 2015 have proved unsuccessful. 

“As the owners are unable to sustain further losses, the continued use of the property as a hotel is no longer an option and an alternative use needs to be found for it. 

“The proposal to alter, extend and convert the hotel to form 11 apartments represents an appropriate use for the building, restoring it to its original residential use and, by doing so, increasing the choice and range of accommodation available in the area. 

“The alterations required to facilitate that change of use can be undertaken in a manner which not only preserves but also enhances the character and appearance of the building as one of special architectural character and appearance. “The impacts associated with the proposed use of the property for residential purposes – for example, traffic generation, noise etc – will also be significantly less than those associated with its established use.”

Venlaw Castle was built as a house on the site of the former Smithfield Castle in 1782 by then sheriff deputy of Peebleshire Alexander Stevenson.

After his death, the property was sold to Ludovic Grant, a writer from Edinburgh, in 1790 then to former major Archibald Erskine in 1798.

The house stayed in the Erskine family until its sale in 1924 to Richard Davidson, a retired tea planter in India.

It was first run as a hotel in 1949 by Alexander Cumming and his wife Jean Brownlee and remained in their family until November 1997.

After being bought then by John and Shirley Sloggie it had its name changed from Venlaw Castle Hotel to Castle Venlaw Hotel.

It was taken over by PAG Hotels in September 2007 but it went into administration three years later, and Mr and Mrs Curry bought it the year after.