A property developer behind the proposed redevelopment of the Marske Hall estate has asked for more time to convince the public the plans would benefit the local community.
Ian Morton, a property developer of 41 years, is currently overseeing the renovation of the stables building on the estate into ten luxury apartments, and had hoped to restore the main hall and adjacent sawmill to provide a “staycation” point and leisure facilities for both guests and locals.
Mr Morton, from Leeds, a self-confessed historic building enthusiast, has previously restored a number of buildings including Claremont in Leeds, a Georgian merchant’s house,
The developer said he “fell in love with” Marske Stables when he first saw the building, which was previously given planning consent for redevelopment ten years ago and had been on the market several years together with the derelict sawmill.
“The stables has an amazing equestrian heritage and the location was breathtaking. I made an offer and after many months managed to find some finance to back the development.
“We arranged a meeting in January 2020 and invited the local people of Marske – I wanted them to get involved and help me find a way of bringing Marske Hall back to life.
“My vision was to create luxury apartments for upmarket visitors and incorporate a tea and coffee shop in a disused former doghouse and to convert the derelict sawmill into a corporate event space with a bar for locals to use.”
“This would be called the Dormouse, which is the name of the pub that used to exist in Marske.
“This would make the whole estate work for visitors and locals alike, making it possible to ensure the enduring viability of the estate as a going concern.
“Visitors also need a reason to come in the winter periods, so we have set up contacts with local businesses to create joint ventures such as cooking, wine-tasting, cycling and walking to name a few.”
National park planners will meet on Tuesday to consider the proposal to transform the hall, which has been laid out as ten apartments for decades, into an exclusive hotel, featuring 20 “very high quality” studios, a gym, sauna, shop, and wine tasting rooms, while the sawmill and kennels in the grounds would become events spaces.
It is also proposed to utilise the gardens and woods for activities such as archery, bowls and croquet.
The proposals have been met with more than 100 letters of objection from local residents.
Mr Morton believes the objections have unfairly focussed on the large numbers of vehicles which would arrive for wedding events, which the developer insists the estate would not be focussed on.
Along with providing an upmarket venue for various events to pull visitors and locals into the area, he said that the job creation aspect of the project would also be a huge boon for the region, even down to the ongoing building work, which provide years of work for local tradesmen when many have struggled to find regular work.
He said: “When we tendered the work, I wanted a local builder to do the project, unfortunately a builder from outside the area won it, so I decided to form a new company called Richmond Building and Maintenance Ltd and employ locals to do the work”.
“The man on the ground, in charge of the project, Ian Smith, lives a mile away from the estate.”
On the incorporation of the hall itself to the project, Mr Morton said: “I was given a chance to buy the Main Hall and develop that and have worked for over a year with expert planning consultants and have provided detailed reports by experts on traffic noise, landscaping, conservation, and have the backing in principle of English Heritage.
“Our idea to create events is actually going back to its original use as the hall was actually built for people to enjoy themselves and have a bit of fun.”
He adds that it would provide a timely economic boost to surrounding towns such as Richmond, where the proposals have received an excellent reception, as visitors to Marske would very likely end up spending time and money there.
Commenting ahead of tomorrow’s planning meeting, Mr Morton said: “It now seems that a small group of local residents have contacted various departments and misled the planning department, who now intend to announce the refusal of the scheme on February 9, on the basis of information that is simply not true.
“We have not been given any time to respond and are asking for more time, and all we want is the opportunity to make clear our plans to the relevant departments, and of course, the Marske public.
“This is the only opportunity since World War II for the whole estate to come into one ownership. It’s an opportunity that’s unlikely to ever come again.
“We need all the help we can get in these difficult times to keep the local economy going, create and retain jobs for local people, and ensure a long-term viable strategy for this beautiful old estate.”