Hotel closure leaves 'horrible' island situation
UNCERTAINTY hangs over the future of an Isles of Scilly hotel, which will remain closed for the 2013 season.
The St Martin's in the Isle Hotel received Prince Charles's endorsement when plans were mooted 24 years ago, despite controversy over its building.
Now, a notice posted at the 30-bedroom cottage-style hotel about its closure for the season has led to fears it may not re-open, leaving the island of St Martin's with neither a pub nor a hotel.
Manager Keith Bradford confirmed the closure but said he was unable to say more as the matter was "sub judice". However, he insisted it was not true that the hotel had gone into voluntary liquidation.
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Artist Lanie Wood, who worked at the hotel for eight years, said: "It's horrible for both Scilly and St Martin's."
Maintenance manager Tony Williams is one of three island people losing their jobs.
Describing it as "an incredible shock", he said they had received a letter through the post saying their employment had been terminated on February 20 "and we didn't know about that until the 25th".
The only indication they had been given was at a meeting when it was said there were some "issues" which would hopefully be resolved.
For some time there had been rumours of difficulty at the hotel, said Mr Williams, adding: "The number of people staying has been drastically reduced."
He said the withdrawal of the helicopter link hadn't helped, "and our costs have probably doubled over the past four or five years".
He planned to go back to working as a builder on a self-employed basis, he said.
A year or so ago there had been plans to close for an upgrade but the hotel remained open and no work was done.
Built in the form of a row of fishermen's cottages, the hotel has had two owners since its inception in May 1989.
Robert Francis, from Mullion, built it after initially flirting with the idea of a hotel on nearby Bryher, and was there for four years.
He is the current owner of the award-winning Star Castle Hotel on St Mary's.
Its second – and current – owner is 66-year-old Bristol chartered surveyor Peter Sykes, who bought the hotel in 1993.
At the time Mr Sykes said: "Nowhere has surpassed the unique attractions of St Martin's Hotel."
The 24-bedroom hotel, with its Michelin-starred Tean Restaurant, is sited on a lonely shore overlooking Tean Sound and Tresco.
Its construction was a bone of contention with those who did not welcome an hotel on an island that had never had one before, and the plan came close to falling at the first hurdle.
Approval was given only with the chairman's casting vote, and was then challenged.
The hotel also became an issue between the Duchy of Cornwall and the newly established Environmental Trust, formed to manage untenanted land in the islands, which refused permission to use stone from redundant walls to face the building. The Crown Landlord stepped in, repossessed the land and allowed the stone to be used, fostering a belief that the trust had no teeth.
It nearly signalled the demise of the conservation body, which debated giving back the land in its care to the Duchy.