By David Shrimpton
Fledgling group Pendlebury Hotels is close to snapping up a third historic property in north England.
The Grade II-listed, 17th century castle in the North-east would have 50 bedrooms when converted into a hotel. Pendlebury will not identify it until the deal is complete, but hopes to make an announcement in September.
Launched this month with the backing of a consortium of Lancashire entrepreneurs, Pendlebury already owns the Grade II-listed Scaitcliffe Hall hotel in Todmorden, Lancashire, and recently bought medieval Thurland Castle, near Kirkby Lonsdale in the Lake District.
It aims to have 10 four-star hotels in the North within five years and a turnover of £12m.
Patrick Hedderman, previously general manager of Slaley Hall in Northumberland, has been appointed general manager for the group. Company chairman is businessman David Edgar, who has so far invested £5m. His other firms include a chain of opticians and a number of construction companies.
Edgar said he had chosen to attack the four-star market as opportunities for five-star properties were limited, while at three-star level and below the market was already crowded.
All the properties will have large banqueting and conference facilities, plus leisure clubs capable of supporting 350 members.
Edgar said this diverse focus should help the properties weather the effects of any recession. The firm's gearing has also been kept low.
More than £3m is being spent refurbishing Scaitcliffe Hall and Thurland Castle. The former, bought two years ago, is being extended from 13 to 40 bedrooms and the 40-seat restaurant moved and enlarged to more than 50 seats. It should be completed next March.
Conversion of Thurland Castle could take as long as two years.