Feathers Hotel revival plans are hit with public in Ludlow
Owners restoring one of the county's most striking historic hotels say the next stage of the project could be completed as soon as September – with the public hailing the regeneration as "essential" for the town.
The Feathers in Ludlow opened its doors on Thursday to show off the plans for the future of the building, with hundreds of residents taking the chance to get a proper look at the vision for the landmark hotel's future.
Crest Hotels bought The Feathers in February last year, and has since embarked on plans to regenerate and restore the famous timber-fronted building.
The tea rooms was the first part of the project and Crest Hotels are now waiting for conservation officials to approve their plans for the next stage – creating a lounge bar area and refurbished 50 cover restaurant on the ground floor.
Jason Hiley, group operations director for Crest Hotels, said that provided they get the go-ahead, then the work on that stage could be complete in time for Ludlow's famous food festival in September.
The next stage will be to restore the bedrooms on the front of the hotel, with work planned for the end of October into the beginning of November. The second phase of bedrooms will follow at the beginning of January.
The restoration of the stunning black and white facade will then be looked at in 2020.
The event showed off the furniture and the decor that will feature in the lounges and the restaurant – with no TVs as stressed by Mr Hiley.
He said the long-term ambition was to make the venue a four star hotel with a two rosette restaurant.
He said: "Right now we are going through a process of of investment to make a very good four star hotel with a good two rosette restaurant.
"Further, the intention is to have a hotel renowned for the right reasons – great hospitality, great character, a great building, that is known regionally. A hotel of choice.
"We see ourselves as custodians.
"The owners want to put it right. They do not want to scrimp, they want to make sure we do justice to it."
'Hopefully it will liven Ludlow up'
Mr Hiley said they had been pleased with the reaction to the plans, and wanted the people of Ludlow to see what the future holds for the hotel.
He said: "We wanted to give everyone the opportunity to come in and see what we are aiming to achieve here. When Crest Hotels looked at the property we always knew it had to be a hub for the community and that is exactly what we are achieving today."
More than a hundred people had turned out to see the plans, and one of those was Phil Maile, former Landlord of The Bull, which sits opposite The Feathers.
He said: "It is something that needed doing, I'll be honest. Hopefully it will liven Ludlow up again. On the tourism side it has certainly missed it since it has been closed.
"It has been calling out for this for quite a few years now."
Local councillor Andy Boddington said the project had the potential to make a huge difference to the town.
He said: "This is the right thing at the right time. The Feathers had declined for years and was relying on low paying tourists in coaches.
"It was just beginning to fall apart and now it feels like the real Feathers again. There is a sense of excitement that it has a great future as one of the oldest buildings in Ludlow."
Mickie O'Neil of Ludlow added: "I am really looking forward to seeing it running in the community. We never went to it if we went in to town, we would go to another pub or somewhere else for a meal.
"What they are doing is absolutely essential."
Andy Wright of Ludlow described the refurbishment as "vital" for the town.
He said: "It is the one picture that every tourist takes – the front of The Feathers, and if they cannot walk through the doors and they see the other businesses closed they start to think Ludlow is closed for business, which it is not, it is very much a centre for independent traders."
The hotel's new manager Dave Leggett said he was thrilled to be taking charge of the venue, and excited about the future.
He said: "I cannot wait, it is a huge opportunity for me. It is such an iconic place.
"Everyone who comes into the tea shop wants to speak about it and wants to know what is going on.
"I have worked in some beautiful places all over the UK but I have never been in a place that means so much to the local people – they really want it to succeed."