Victorian mansion hotel venture gets planning consent a decade after launching

West Layton Manor.

The owner of a hotel venture based in part of a Victorian mansion has spoken of his delight after a council gave consent for a hospitality business which had been operating there for about a decade without planning consent.

Richard Sharpe said the decision over the future of his six-bedroom “quiet rural retreat” at West Layton Manor, near Ravensworth, by Richmondshire District Council meant five rural economy jobs had been secured at a time similar nearby businesses were struggling with economic pressures.

Neighbours of the hotel, where heiress to a mining fortune Emma Easton died in mysterious circumstances in a locked room in 1880, had complained that despite having raised concerns over the unauthorised development at a licensing meeting of the local authority, the enterprise has been allowed to continue, causing “stress and anxiety”.

Mr Sharpe said he had been shocked to learn the building’s planning consent to welcome paying guests had expired, saying solicitors and a bank dealing with the business had also overlooked whether it had planning consent.

He said: “As far as we were aware, as were all the previous owners for the last ten years, the original hotel planning permission was still valid.”

He said an application in the 2000s to convert the historic building, which some people believe is haunted, back into a residential property did not feature on the authority’s public planning website.

Planners have granted consent for the premises to be used as a hotel, providing it is not used for any purpose other than as holiday accommodation, to ensure it is “not used for permanent residential occupation which would be unacceptable in this location”.

In 2019, the council’s Retail, Leisure and Town Centre Study highlighted a gap in the provision of modern, accredited and serviced hotel stock in Richmondshire, with just 5.5 per cent of all visitors using serviced accommodation.

Mr Sharpe said: “It’s been a good outcome, everyone’s jobs have been saved. It could have gone either way. It was very likely that it would be approved in retrospect for almost ten years an operation, but there was always a danger it could have been shut down as well.

“It is just a quiet rural retreat, but it has secured business for the area as hospitality has been decimiated by the economy and cost of living crisis, especially in the accommodations sector.”