Hunters Lodge Motel and Da Vinci Restaurant in Charnock Richard could be bulldozed for new houses

The future of a well-known hotel and restaurant in Chorley is in doubt after permission was granted for it to be demolished amid a dispute over leases and alleged rent arrears.

Friday, 4th March 2022, 10:30 am
Updated Friday, 4th March 2022, 12:09 pm

An application to flatten the Hunters Lodge Motel and Da Vinci Restaurant – on the A49 Preston Road in Charnock Richard - has been given the green light by Chorley Council’s planning committee.

Councillors approved an outline proposal that would see the family-run complex replaced with up to nine detached houses.

However, in a written objection to the plans, the operator of the two businesses said that the move would make them “homeless” - and stressed that they had a lease on the property until 2025.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The Hunters Lodge Motel and Da Vinci Restaurant in Charnock Richard could make way for nine new houses

Read More

Read More
Former Chorley village pub to become a house with cottages in its grounds

The family - who have run the venture for 16 years and currently employ 18 people - claimed to have spent tens of thousands of pounds on maintaining and upgrading what they say was a “previously neglected” building. They also insisted that both the hotel and eatery were still viable and “busier than ever” after a slump during Covid.

The agent for the application, Peter Gilkes - representing the site owner - said that his client initially believed that both the hotel and restaurant sections of the building were held on the same lease, which expired on 31st July last year.

He told the committee that it was only after information was sought from the Land Registry that it emerged the restaurant had been “separated off in 2005 and [is] subject to a separate lease, ending on 21st February, 2025”.

The same family has run the businesses for the past 16 years

However, Mr. Gilkes said that his client was nevertheless “pursuing his legal rights [over] several breaches of covenants in both the hotel and restaurant leases and the arrears that have accrued - amounting to many thousand of pounds...over several years, going back to well before lockdown”.

He also told the committee that a claim made in the family’s objection to the application suggesting that he had “lied in an attempt to rush through the process” was untrue, defamatory and “now the subject of legal action”.

The operator of the business had revealed in their written submission that there were “four households” living in the property - including children and pensioners - along with the restaurant manager in on-site staff accommodation.

However, Mr. Gilkes said that there was only one residence on the plot that was intended for the “proprietor or manager” - and that all other households were therefore living on the premises “in breach of the lease terms and planning permissions”.

Sixteen objections were registered to the plans from members of the public and it was also strongly opposed by Charnock Richard Parish Council, which claimed that the new estate would lead to the “over-development” of the plot. However, three people offered their support for the scheme and claimed that the site as it stands is “an eyesore”.

Council planning officers had recommended approval of the proposed development - on what is a greenbelt site - because they concluded that the new dwellings would not have a “greater impact on the openness of the greenbelt” than the existing hotel and restaurant.

Committee member Martin Boardman suggested that the new properties should be limited to one-and-a-half storeys in height, given that the current buildings are largely single-storey. However, planning services manager Adele Hayes said that such a stipulation could lead to more of the site being covered by the proposed homes than would otherwise have been the case, in order to compensate for the loss of height.

A condition could be placed on the plans at the next stage of the application process to ensure that the total volume of the newly-built dwellings does not exceed a 30 percent increase over that of the current facilities, which include a number of outbuildings.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service approached the operator of the hotel and restaurant for a response to the comments made during the committee meeting, but they said that they were currently unable to comment.

PAST LIFE

Committee member Harold Heaton said that some people might recall the site being home to the Bungalow Transport Cafe. The Eccleston, Heskin and Charnock Richard ward member said that the venue pre-dated the building of the Preston Bypass - now known as the M6.