WHEN DR Beeching swung his axe over the branch line at Blandford Forum he signed the warrant for the long, slow death of the Railway Hotel.

Originally built in 1865 to provide accommodation for the earliest train travellers, the historic building went into decline and its most recent incarnation, as a pub, was considered ‘inappropriate’ in what is now a quiet residential area.

But now the historic building – classed as a non-designated heritage asset by the local authority – will have a new lease of life as part of a five-home development.

Ringwood’s Williams Lester Chartered Architects say they are delighted with the decision to allow the scheme, which they say will preserve the building’s ‘elegantly proportioned ‘Italianate’ stucco façade’ and much of the interior.

Stephen Johnson, conservation expert and Director at Williams Lester Architects said: “This is an attractive scheme and one that we are proud to be involved with. Using our expertise we have aided our client to revitalise a beautiful old building and make it viable in modern times. Retaining the grand frontage that the hotel is famous for allows the preservation of an important part of Blandford’s Victorian heritage and its link with the bygone railway era.”

The approved scheme provides an opportunity for regeneration of the site, with the original building at the heart of the plans. The various unsightly and ad-hoc later additions will, says Mr Johnson, be removed to allow conversion of the hotel building into three flats, with a two-bedroom townhouse extension to the rear. The former stable block, which has served as a skittle alley to the pub, will be converted into a mews cottage.

The Railway Hotel’s location within the Conservation Area always made it a sensitive site. However, a spokesperson for the Blandford and District Civic Society said the application was “a means of preserving a distinctive and historic building which has fallen into disrepair, and whose original use as a hotel for railway travellers can never be resumed”.