Raven Hall: New owners promise major investment in Yorkshire coast hotel will respect building's heritage

The new owners of one of the oldest hotels on the Yorkshire coast have released more information about their plans for the 18th-century building after customers raised concerns over its future.
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Newcastle-based Apartment Group has bought Raven Hall Hotel in Ravenscar, between Scarborough and Whitby, from local businesswoman Diane Uhalde, who has owned the site overlooking Robin Hood’s Bay for the past 20 years.

Built in the 1700s as a mansion for the owner of the local alum works, Raven Hall has been a hotel since 1895 and was part of an ambitious Edwardian scheme to turn the village into a genteel resort town.

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However, the takeover generated controversy when a number of couples who had booked weddings at the venue struggled to contact staff to discuss their worries that renovation work and planned changes to the hotel would affect their ceremonies.

Raven Hall HotelRaven Hall Hotel
Raven Hall Hotel

Local residents also criticised Apartment Group’s plans to change Raven Hall’s name to ‘Grand Villa Heights’ and expressed concerns that wildlife on the coast would be disturbed by large-scale events.

The communication issues have been attributed to a handover period between the two companies, but Apartment Group’s chief executive Stuart Bailey has now told The Yorkshire Post that the business will ‘respect the heritage’ of Raven Hall and maintain a ban on fireworks that is already in place at its other wedding venues.

Mr Bailey said: “We would like to offer our enormous thanks to previous owner Diane Uhalde and her family for taking fantastic care of such an amazing property for the last 20 years. We are also overjoyed to play a part in the next chapter of this incredible building which is located in one of the most dramatic locations in the UK."

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The Apartment Group will commit £10million to refurbishing the hotel, the seventh property under their portfolio, and have described their ambition as being ‘to create was one of the most unique and spectacular hotels in Europe.’

Raven Hall, RavenscarRaven Hall, Ravenscar
Raven Hall, Ravenscar

Mr Bailey added: “We have considerable experience of working with heritage assets and listed buildings, and it is always immensely rewarding creating sustainable futures for these beautiful buildings. Raven Hall is such an iconic building, and although not listed we still have a strong commitment to preserve any heritage features.

"We’ve already met with the North York Moors National Park, as well as engaged the services of a local heritage consultant to ensure that all improvements are of the highest quality and sensitivity.

“As soon as our experts have drawn up the proposed ideas, we will be inviting the local community along to hear their views and suggestions.”

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Although guests from a large radius are expected to visit the hotel, Mr Bailey said that in all Apartment Group venues, local residents were welcome to use the amenities. A neighbourhood discount scheme is in place and will be introduced in Ravenscar.

He added: “With a proven history of transforming closed, derelict, or venues only open two days a week into busy community treasures, we see no reason why this new venture, which already has strong local support, will not follow the same successful and exciting path as our other hotels.”

On the subject of the renovation work beginning in April, he said: “During all refurbishments we always take every precaution to ensure the smoothest of

changeovers, and we have considerable experience of achieving this. However, regrettably, with a large multi-million investment it is unfortunate that there will be some situations that are unavoidable. In these instances we work extremely closely with anyone who may be effected to find a solution. If we have failed anyone on this so far, then I apologise and ask them to contact us immediately.

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"It has been mentioned that we are promoting the use of fireworks at weddings. For the avoidance of doubt, despite the fact that we are allowed to have fireworks, there has always been a complete ban for at least 10 years on fire works at all of our venues, out of respect for our rural neighbours – both human and wildlife. No other hotel group have adopted this policy, but we did over 10 years ago, and will introduce this immediately to protect the seal colony.

"We love rural locations and everything that comes with them. For example, at our other hotels, we provide free lunches to staff and friends when we do beach clean walks. We ensure that guests are correctly briefed on how to behave on the beach during bird nesting season. I can assure you without any doubt that we are only looking to make a positive contribution in the North Yorks Moor National Park.”

Mr Bailey confirmed that the rebrand as Grand Villa Heights will proceed, but said the decision had not ‘been taken lightly’ and added that the hotel’s name had been changed on previous occasions.

He concluded: “For any miscommunications within the transitional period of ownership, we take full responsibility and extend our sincere regret. We are committed to rectifying any issues promptly."