PLANS to turn one of the New Forest's best-known hotels into a B&B and tearoom have been given the go-ahead.

A proposal to downsize the award-winning Cloud Hotel in a bid to save the business has been given the go-ahead by the National Park Authority (NPA).

Brockenhurst Parish Council had called for the scheme to be rejected.

In a letter to the NPA members stressed the importance of retaining hotel provision in the area to accommodate what they described as the increasing number of visitors to the Forest.

They also warned that the addition of a tearoom would result in the site becoming too busy.

But the planning application said the Cloud Hotel had not been financially viable since before the Covid pandemic.

It added that the proposed downsizing would enable the long-established business to remain in operation.

The application included a design and access statement written in October last year by Simpson Hilder Associates.

It said: "Employment is currently scaled back to a minimum as the hotel has been a struggling business.

"Our clients have taken on much of the work themselves to save costs.

"The proposed works would not therefore reduce the level of employment as it will provide our clients with the opportunity to employ others to reduce their hands-on involvement."

A report to NPA members added: "The building dates from the early 20th century and was originally two pairs of cottages.

"The proposals seek to rationalise the site and enhance the original buildings to create a bed and breakfast business with tearooms, together with four cottages, two of which would be self-contained holiday lets.

"The proposal is considered to be acceptable, given that some tourist accommodation would be retained.

"The design would would preserve both the existing non-designated heritage asset and the character and appearance of the conservation area."

In 2017 the Cloud Hotel was bought by Chris Legg and Stewart Willis.

It was previously run by Avril Owton, a former Tiller Girl who performed at the London Palladium alongside the likes of Judy Garland, Cilla Black and Bruce Forsyth.

Her business career began in the 1970s, when her husband Tom took over the hotel.

After he died in 1991 she updated the building and saw her investment pay off. Profits soared by 800% and in 1995 she was named Hampshire Businesswoman of the Year.

In 2016 she hosted a celebration to mark her four decades at the Cloud Hotel.

Speaking at the time Cllr Alison Hoare, then chairman of New Forest District Council, said: “Avril is the most inspiring woman I have ever met.”

Referring to Tom Owton’s death she added: “When the worst possible thing happened she rolled up her sleeves and turned The Cloud into the wonderful, award-winning hotel it is today.”


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