Bell tolls on shops plan for pub
GRAND plans for the historic Bell Hotel pub to become shops have been dropped by developers, who have had to go back to the drawing board because of difficulties with the planning process.
The pub and hotel in High Street – one of Swindon’s oldest surviving inns – was be transformed into an arcade of independent shops and business-class lodgings in a £500,000 scheme .
Bell Arcade Ltd, run by John Slattery and Chris O’Connell, submitted outline plans to Swindon Council in the summer after taking over the leasehold on the building but they have now formally withdrawn it.
A new proposal to keep it as a hotel is being put together, while the bar area will remain but there will be a greater focus on food rather than the traditional pub it has been in the past.
Bell Arcade Ltd has said it is close to putting the new plans together.
“There is a degree of disappointment that we could not go through with our original plan,” said John.
“It was like banging your head against a brick wall at times. These things happen sometimes with planning and you have to make changes accordingly.”
The new proposal will see The Bell remain as a hotel, although it is not yet clear how many rooms it will have. There will be a gym, Go Physique, behind which will service the hotel as well as the public.
It is a Grade II listed structure so the new plans will see the front remain more or less the same and the iconic bell, which hangs outside of the front, will also be kept.
The courtyard will be cleared and there will be a small extension as the back.
John, who has worked on developments including the Spot Bar in the past, said: “We are going back to a more basic plan.
“The pub area will open and serve alcohol but we are not 100 per cent sure what form it will take. There will be more of a focus on food so it will be different than the traditional real ale pub it has been in the past.
“We want to open with something different than the public have been used to over the last 15 years.
“There will be more care and more money put into it than has been previously so people will see a huge improvement.
“The bell will obviously remain and the front will also stay much the same apart from some work to smarten it up.”
The Bell is believed to be one of the oldest pubs in the town, perhaps dating back 500 years, but has suffered hard times more recently.
It re-opened last November following a refurbishment after being closed for a year only to close its doors again three months later.
There was mixed reaction amongst locals when the original plan to convert it into shops was first made public.
Some were concerned at losing such a historic pub while others were pleased to see the historic building being put to use.
It is hoped the hotel will be able to open again in the new year.
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