THE grade II listed Castle Hotel in Windsor wins the right to keep its outdoor seating area despite criticisms it doesn’t fit with the “prestige” area.

The hotel’s retrospective plans to retain its seating area, which was erected for the Leaf restaurant alongside the building and part within the carriageway arch in April in response to Covid-19, was narrowly approved by councillors on the Windsor and Ascot development management panel.

As the seating area is within a conservation area, parts of it were under threat of being removed after planning officers were originally going to refuse the scheme, who stated the structure has a “negative” impact on the setting of the listed building and makes the carriageway arch look “cluttered and incongruous”.

Royal Borough Observer: The Castle Hotel in Windsor High StreetThe Castle Hotel in Windsor High Street

But Eton and Castle ward councillor Samantha Rayner ‘called in’ the application for panel members to determine its fate, believing the economic regeneration of Windsor, Covid safety, and tourism outweighs this.

Speaking at the meeting on Wednesday, January 5, Sam Goss, general manager at the Castle Hotel in the High Street, argued it makes the area look more “vibrant” as well as “enhancing” the High Street.

Cllr Julian Sharpe (Con: Ascot & Sunninghill), who put forward a motion to refuse the plans, criticised the “shabby” seating area for looking more like a temporary structure rather than something to be made permanent.

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He said: “I think right now to turn it into a permanent structure, I would like to see the business to come back with something that is of a much higher heritage quality which would fulfil the same needs and uses, but actually would enhance the conservation area itself, which I don’t feel that this is actually doing at the moment.”

He also feared it would set a precedent for other businesses on Windsor High Street to put up “similar” and “not very high quality” structures.

Cllr Amy Tisi (Lib Dem: Clewer East) said it “doesn’t fit in with the prestige of the area” given it’s opposite the guildhall and in close proximity of the castle.

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But Cllr John Bowden (Con: Eton & Castle), who put forward a proposal to approve against officer recommendations, believed the harm it has to the heritage buildings are “less than substantial” and agreed with Cllr Rayner that the economic regeneration outweighs this harm.

The two motions were evenly split when it came to the votes where the chairman had the deciding vote.

Cllr David Cannon (Con: Datchet, Horton, & Wraysbury) used his chairman vote to approve the plans against the officer’s recommendations.