AN HISTORIC hotel in Peebles is now just one step away from being converted into residential flats, after Scottish Borders councillors voted for the plans.

The former Castle Venlaw Hotel, on the western slopes of Venlaw Hill, Peebles, has been up for sale for more than three years, and has been vacant since owners Roy and Lorna Curry closed the business in December 2017.

Now, the couple are proposing to convert the 12-bedroom hotel into eight separate residences, and to build an extension on the north side of the building which will house a further three dwellings.

However, the Currys have actually submitted two proposals, after their first design triggered an objection from Historic Environment Scotland, which is concerned the extension will “result in significant negative intervention affecting the special architectural and historic interest of Castle Venlaw.”

The second proposal is largely the same, in regards to size, design, and the number of proposed dwellings, but rather than building an extension, the new residential flats would be built two metres away from the main building in a stand alone development.

The proposals were heard at a meeting of Scottish Borders Council’s planning and building standards committee on Monday 25 March.

Appearing before the committee on behalf of the Currys, Derek Scott, of Derek Scott Planning and EMA Architects, said: “Roy and Lorna Curry are two very experienced hoteliers, and have owned and operated a number of such hotels in the last 30 years.

“With that experience, and benefit of local knowledge, they were confident that they could return the hotel into a profitable enterprise. Unfortunately that was not to be the case.

“In the first four years of their ownership, during which neither partner withdrew a salary, they incurred financial losses in excess of £100,000 per annum.

“I would stress to you this morning that our clients will only recover a fraction of their losses from this project.

“There a number of planning issues to be considered. The first is the overriding need to find an alternative use for this vacant listed building, the condition of which, as already evidenced through dampness and water penetration, could deteriorate very quickly.

“The second is the principle of changing the building’s use to residential accom. Given the marketing and trading history, it is clear that the property is not suitable, nor does it offer significant potential for use as a hotel.

“Converting the property to residential use seems the most obvious and logical option.”

The oldest part of Castle Venlaw dates back to 1782, and other parts of the building were added in 1854 and 1892.

The oldest part is rectangular in design and the later part, to the south, is a three-storey Scots baronial tower house.

The castle was converted into a hotel in 1949, and was purchased by the Currys in 2011 through their company Ireland-registered company Rikeja.

Galashiels and District councillor Sandy Aitchison commented on the proposals: “It’s obvious that a hotel of that size it isn’t viable, so from that point of view I’d be happy with this.

“I’d prefer it was occupied rather than left vacant, so I have no formal objection to this.

“I think this design is a really strong attempt to fit in with what is there and I wish them luck.”

Jedburgh and District councillor Scott Hamilton told the committee: “I think there is no problem with the change of use and having looked at the plans, the design of the extension is very sympathetic to the current building.

“I disagree with Historic Environment Scotland’s objection regarding scale and mass.

“On balance, I do support this application.”

Councillors unanimously voted to approve the application, which means both plans laid out by the Currys have been rubber stamped by Scottish Borders Council.

However, because Castle Venlaw is a category B listed, the proposals must now go before Scottish ministers for further approval.