‘Don’t let this be our Fortfield’

This was the message from Ottery Town Council after they claimed the Salston Manor hotel has been left to fall to ‘rack and ruin’.

The grade two-listed building has been sat empty for several years, and according the council’s planning chairman is falling apart inside.

Paul Carter is pressing for East Devon District Council (EDDC) to step in and prevent one of Ottery’s most iconic buildings from complete disrepair.

Mr Carter told the council at Monday’s meeting it was depressing to go and see the inside of the once luxurious hotel, as he, Mayor Glyn Dobson and Deputy Mayor Ian Holmes had done last week.

They said it was almost waterlogged, with buckets overflowing with rainwater, and ceilings falling in.

Mr Carter said: “More urgency is needed on this, we can’t sit back and let a ‘listed building’ fall to rack and ruin.

“We don’t want what happened at the Fortfield to happen here.”

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That was in reference to the famous old hotel in Sidmouth which was mostly burnt down earlier this year after sitting derelict.

Salston Manor was sold following the retirement of the owners, Martin and Sally Dowse, in 2008, and the new owner, Roger Young, applied for planning permission to change it into a care home.

The proposal for a 76-bed facility was approved by East Devon District Council in May 2009, but more than two years on it still sits empty, its condition worsening.

Ottery Town Council has been lobbying EDDC to visit the site and on Monday the senior conservation officer took a look round the 27-room hotel.

The council want him to take action to prevent further damage to the listed property, such as making the building watertight and secure.

Mr Young did not respond to a request for a comment by the Herald.

At Monday’s planning meeting other councillors said they were worried about Salston’s condition and had received complaints from local residents, and also had worries over the security of the property in its increasingly derelict state.

Ottery police have confirmed they regularly visit the site while on patrol in the area.

And a care home developer who was close to renting Salston now thinks it will be impossible to develop into the 76-bed facility it promised to be.

Leon Fear, whose firm Claverton Healthcare looked into leasing the property back in 2009, thinks the state of the care home business and the manor house’s listed status will prevent any development any time soon.

He said the care home sector is in real trouble, and banks are unwilling to lend money for new projects, especially when there is a conversion element involved, as would have to be at Salston Manor.

Leon, who works with his father Stephen on creating residential care facilities, said they thought Salston had real potential but were put off by the ‘astronomical’ cost of getting it ready for use.

He added; “When we saw it we thought it was a real retreat, you couldn’t get a better spot, but unfortunately we couldn’t make it work.”

He now thinks two years on with its state of disrepair it will be impossible for anybody to find the funds, and even if they could with big firms like Southern Cross in financial difficulty, how anybody could make a luxury care home pay.