International opposition to Dolphin Hotel student flats

International opposition to Dolphin Hotel student flats plan

Plans to transform the Dolphin Hotel into student accommodation have been met with fierce resistance from a book store in America.

Jennifer Weinbrecht, who owns the Jane Austen Book store in Novelty, Ohio, is among those voicing her opposition to the plans.

The Grade II listed hotel hosted Jane Austen on her 18th birthday.

Daily Echo:

The 500 year old Dolphin, which is described as a ‘jewel’ with a ‘rich history’, was regularly frequented by the Pride and Prejudice author.

In Austen’s writings, she referenced an ‘amusing’ ball she attended at the Dolphin and a plaque outside the building shows she celebrated her 18th birthday there on December 16, 1793.

 Ms Weinbrecht wrote on the Southampton portal on behalf of the ‘international community of Jane Austen fans and scholars’.

“I request that you consider the cultural importance of the Dolphin Inn as the only remaining structure in Southampton with Jane Austen connections,” the 67 year old said.

“As we approach next year’s 250th anniversary of Jane Austen’s birth, many of our customers and friends are making trips to the UK to visit Jane Austen sites.”

READ MORE: Student flats plan for historic hotel sparks huge opposition

Ms Weinbrecht said Southampton is an important location on the ‘extended Austen pilgrimage’.

Devastated Austen fans have begged the council to consider the ‘cultural importance’ of the building – which is the only remaining structure in Southampton with connections to the author.

Austen fan Norma Mackey said when she first heard of the proposed development she ‘nearly cried’.

“I did, I’m so passionate about this.

“As soon as I found out about it I contacted our theatre group so they knew what to do…objection, objection, objection.”

The retired health service worker, 69, said she ‘objects strongly’ to the change of use application and said all the history and architecture of the building will be ‘lost’ on the students staying there.

“I think they have shot themselves in the foot because they will lose a gem,” she added.

“If it goes Southampton has lost quite a lot of its heritage. It’s disrespectful to the architect that designed it.”

The Southampton resident is part of the Sarah Siddons Fan Club which is a historical re-enactment theatre company named after Austen’s favourite actress.

The group – which was set up by Cheryl Butler in 1985 – regularly take tourists to the hotel as it is the only remaining building in the port city that was stayed in by the author.

Ms Butler said Austen spent ‘quite important periods of her life’ in Southampton which were ‘critical times in her development of a writer’.

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She said a lot of people, both fans and local historians, are ‘really upset’ about the plans to transform the hotel.

“I just find it strange that someone would pick on that building and think it would be a good building,” she added.

“There are many building in this town that have been given over to student accommodation.

“It’s not as if this is the only building that could be used.”

The application is currently being considered by Southampton City Council’s planning department.

The Dolphin, which is rumoured to be haunted by six resident ghosts, is the oldest hotel in the port city with records dating back to 1454.

Under the new proposals, all 99 rooms will be transformed into student dwellings.

The hotel underwent a £4 million redevelopment programme in 2010 which saw it reopened as a Mercure and more recently, the building became used exclusively for asylum seekers.

A heritage statement said student accommodation was considered the most suitable alternative option due to the minimal changes required to the listed building, with a demand for this housing in the city.

The historic hotel had other famous guests including Queen Victoria, Admiral Lord Nelson and William Shakespeare’s theatre company.

A letter submitted on behalf of the applicant by real estate company, Savills, said the plans will ‘enable a long-term viable use of this important and prominent building’.

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