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'Iconic' hotel allowed major expansion to safeguard its future

The approved buildings to the rear of Balmer Lawn Hotel
The approved buildings to the rear of Balmer Lawn Hotel

ONE of the New Forest’s landmark hotels has won permission for a major new expansion after its owners warned refusal would put its future in doubt.

The Balmer Lawn Hotel in Brockenhurst was been given the green light by the national park authority to add a two-storey extension and a pair of new buildings at the back to create 38 new rooms – a near 70% increase on the current 56.

Hoteliers Chris and Alison Wilson said the plan will deliver 22 extra jobs, new spa and leisure facilities, fresh staff accommodation, and double function room capacity to up to 240 people. More than 100 trees will also be planted.

Mr Wilson, who bought the hotel over 23 years ago, said: “We are extremely pleased that three years’ hard work has resulted in Balmer Lawn Hotel now being able to compete with other top New Forest properties.

“For too many years the news has been about the loss of hotel bedrooms in our fabulous destination, so it was critical this plan allowed us to continue to improve the commercial viability of the hotel, the quality and scope of our guest offer and support the local community and environment on a sustainable basis.”

Balmer Lawn Hotel owners Chris and Alison Wilson
Balmer Lawn Hotel owners Chris and Alison Wilson

Granting permission, the NPA described the hotel as “iconic” and making an “important contribution” to the tourist economy. It said that planning conditions could protect the surrounding habitats.

A report concluded: “The scheme has been sensitively designed and it has been demonstrated that it would not have any adverse impact on the amenities of adjoining residential occupiers or the wider area.”

Fourteen letters of support were lodged, with further backing from Brockenhurst Parish Council and New Forest District Council’s economic development manager Matt Callaghan, who highlighted the plan’s benefits to the area’s wider economy.

Mrs Wilson added: “The whole exercise of obtaining planning permission has been quite daunting but given this is a large scheme for a village like Brockenhurst, it’s been a real community effort.”

As reported in the A&T, a previous attempt to finance the hotel’s expansion by developing six houses in the grounds was refused in 2016 by the NPA.

The new approval was also welcomed by Anthony Climpson, chief executive of tourism group Go New Forest.

He said: “It’s wonderful news that, as local owners, Chris and Alison can now continue their huge and ongoing commitment to the long-term renaissance of one of our most important and prestigious hotels.

“We have worked tirelessly to support them in their planning journey because continued improvement is essential, and not only are they committed to providing the best possible visitor experience, they both also truly believe in supporting the special and unique qualities of the New Forest itself.”

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