Construction work set to begin on luxury hotel after wrangling

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WORK is expected to start within the next month on a £100m luxury hotel development after protracted legal wrangles spanning the last two years are set to be resolved.

Speculation has mounted that the ambitious scheme to create the five-star hotel between York and Harrogate had fallen victim to the economic slump.

But the Skelwith Group, the York-based company behind the Flaxby Country Resort development, has confirmed to the Yorkshire Post that construction work is expected to begin later this month or in early April.

The firm was granted planning permission for the hotel almost two years ago, but lengthy talks have ensued to ensure major highways improvements are adequate to cope with the anticipated increase in traffic.

However, a three-week programme to fell 300 trees has started along the A59 near its junction with the A1, and it is hoped legal documents will be signed within the next fortnight to allow actual construction work to begin.

The Skelwith Group’s head of communications, Ben Pilgrim, said: “It has been nearly two years since planning permission was granted, and the discussions have taken longer than everyone would have liked. But we are confident that we will be able to sign things off in the next two weeks, which will allow us to create what will be one of the leading hotels not just in Yorkshire, but the country as a whole.”

The Skelwith Group has hit back at speculation that the long-awaited project has fallen victim to the economic downturn. The firm has already overseen a multi-million pound development on the Yorkshire coast to transform Raithwaite Hall into a luxury hotel that opened in October.

The Yorkshire Post revealed on Monday that Raithwaite Hall is among a series of luxury hotels which are witnessing buoyant business despite the economic crisis. More and more guests are looking to save up their cash to treat themselves to a luxury experience, instead of heading out on a whim to mid-priced hotels and simply adding to mounting credit card bills.

The Skelwith Group’s managing director Paul Ellis maintained the Raithwaite Hall development, between Whitby and Sandsend, provided evidence that the Flaxby scheme would become a reality. But he did admit there had been “a lot of cynicism” about hotel developments during the challenging economic climate.

Harrogate Borough Council granted permission for the Flaxby development in March 2010, in a planning saga dating back to 1992 when the proposals were first mooted. But building work has been unable to start until lengthy discussions to agree the Section 106 and 278 legal agreements are completed.

Plans include a £3m overhaul of the A59, with a new roundabout to service the site and an extra lane created up to junction 47 of the A1, as part of the hotel’s enabling works.

North Yorkshire County Council stressed there is a need to monitor traffic flows over the next decade to establish if more upgrades are needed. Traffic is due to be monitored over a 10-year period through an electronic system run by the council.

The results could lead to major improvements to the highways network surrounding the Flaxby site, such as introducing full-time or part-time signals at the junction 47 roundabout. If traffic flows to the site increase dramatically, another option could see the junction’s slip road to the A1 widened.

The county council confirmed talks are continuing, although it is understood that the negotiations are entering their final stages.

The hotel will have rooms available for up to £800 a night and will be set in 283 acres of woodland. The development is due to include helipads, restaurants, a luxury spa complex, bars and boutiques. It is expected construction will take up to 18 months before the hotel opens in 2014. The hotel is due to employ more than 200 people when fully operational.