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Royal Clarence Hotel in Exeter sold four years after devastating fire

27 August 2020 by

Andrew Brownsword hotels has sold the Royal Clarence Hotel in Exeter four years after it was gutted in a devastating fire.

The site, which has planning permission for the redevelopment of a 74-bedroom hotel, has been bought by South West Lifestyle Brands, a company indirectly-owned by James Brent and his wife. Brent is chairman of property development company the Akkeron Group and a director of Suite Hospitality, which fell into administration this summer.

The Grade-II listed, 53-bedroom, four-AA-star hotel, was destroyed in October 2016 by a fire that had broken out in the adjacent Castle Fine Art Gallery building.

The Andrew Brownsword hotel group had initially hoped the property would reopen in 2019, but enabling works took longer than planned and left the project financially unviable for the business to continue.

Andrew Brownsword said: "We would like to thank the people of the city of Exeter who have shown us such support and patience since the fateful night of the fire. While we are deeply saddened that we were unable to return the hotel to the city that we love, we are satisfied that we have found a good owner for the site, who will restore this corner of Cathedral Yard to its former glory. We offer James and his team every good wish as they set to work."

James Brent added: "We are delighted to have acquired this important site in such a stunning location. We look forward to working with the City, the Cathedral and other partners to replace the historic building".

Demolition, excavation and archaeological works at the site have been completed, securing the future of the remaining historic building to be incorporated in the new design.

Brownsword had bought the 53-bedroom hotel in 2003 for £4.5m and later transformed it to the four-AA-star Abode Exeter. Following the fire he said that he intended to rebuild the hotel "with enormous sympathy to its importance and heritage".

The Andrew Brownsword group owns 13 hotels, including Gidleigh Park in Devon, the Bath Priory in Somerset and four properties operating under the Abode banner.

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