Rugby council gives landmark hotel extra time for controversial events marquee

The marquee that has hosted a wide variety of memorable events at Coombe Abbey Hotel has been given a reprieve – but not for so long as bosses were hoping for.
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The big tent has stayed up under temporary planning permission from Rugby Borough Council that was due to expire yesterday, Monday, July 31.

That arrangement said that ahead of the deadline: ‘the marquee and associated infrastructure hereby permitted shall be removed and the land reinstated (including re-seeding/re-turfing the lawn) to its previous condition within three months of the marquee and associated infrastructure being removed from the site, unless further written permission from the local planning authority has been obtained to retain the marquee and associated infrastructure’.

On that basis, the hotel’s owners went back to the council to ask for seven years – but only got three.

Coombe Abbey. Photo: Google Street View.Coombe Abbey. Photo: Google Street View.
Coombe Abbey. Photo: Google Street View.

The marquee has always jarred with the historic nature of the buildings but its vital role in helping to keep the hotel viable was spelt out as part of the application.

In a letter to the council, the planning agents said the temporary grant of planning permission was understood but added: “As you are no doubt aware, a building of the form and status of Coombe Abbey incurs extraordinary costs for both the management and maintenance of the Abbey as a high quality hotel, compared to the typical modern hotel construction.

“The requirement for staff is accentuated by the layout of the Abbey and the inefficiency in physical space.

“The importance of the marquee to support the hosting of large events, which otherwise cannot be accommodated at Coombe Abbey (by reason of the restricted room sizes in the Abbey) is made more significant in today’s climate, by reasoning of the torrid time experienced during the pandemic and the increased overhead costs in the provision of heating, lighting and staff wages.

“The absence of the revenue sourced from hosting events in the marquee, would severely impact upon the financial ability to maintain the hotel operation at Coombe Abbey.”

The agents also claimed there was no other way for the hotel to host events on the current scale, including relocating the marquee elsewhere on its site.

But the council also received a strongly-worded response from The Gardens Trust, claiming it had not consulted with it, as a statutory consultee ‘with regard to proposed development affecting a site listed by Historic England on their Register of Parks and Gardens’.

Conservation officer Margie Hoffnung wrote: “The lack of time for consideration of possible alternative solutions means that the applicant is clearly hoping that a further seven-year extension will be given as a matter of course.

“We appreciate that the additional space the marquee provides brings with it very necessary income which contributes towards the upkeep of the Grade II* registered park and garden of Coombe Abbey.

“Should your officers approve this application we would suggest that perhaps a shorter timescale of two years is considered, in order for all stakeholders to revisit the difficulties and possibilities that the site brings.

“A marquee, whilst practical, does not necessarily represent the most satisfactory and appropriate solution for such a sensitive heritage asset.”

The hotel has now got a further three years, with the chance to seek a further extension ahead of the new July 2026 deadline.

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