A LISTED building branded an eyesore in a country town was yesterday given a new lick of paint after a wave of complaints.
The Grade II-listed Royal Hotel on Priestpopple in Hexham town centre had its famous frontage boarded up by contractors for newly-appointed receivers last week after standing empty for almost a year.
But the “grim and ugly” brown wooden boards covering the plate-glass street-front windows of the former coaching inn got a thumbs-down from townsfolk, including town councillor Matty Donnelly.
Coun Donnelly said: “It really has been the talking-point of Hexham – and the last straw for many – when the feedback I’m getting is that people think Hexham is getting increasingly dilapidated and neglected.
“The Royal is right in the centre of town opposite the bus station and it’s awful to have it in that state.”
But receiver Kevin Oliver responded swiftly to the complaints ... and yesterday the paint pots were out.
“The contractors were sent back out yesterday afternoon to paint the boards white, which matches the frontage of the hotel,” Mr Oliver said.
“I had told the contractors to paint the boards before they put them in, and when they didn’t, they were then told in no uncertain terms to do it as soon as the weather allowed.”
Coun Donnelly retorted: “Ideally, I want the boards taken out and the beautiful frontage of the Royal left as it’s meant to be.
“I don’t believe there was any damage to the windows so why not let the building stand?”
Mr Oliver confirmed: “There is certainly no damage to the windows or doors, but we had to secure the building to make sure any possible damage would be prevented.
“This really is an iconic building – one of the most iconic in Hexham – and really smart, so we, like everyone else, want it to look as good as possible.
“We discussed what would look best and decided on white, which is the main colour of the hotel’s frontage. Now we are in the early days of getting the business situation sorted out. We have had some enquiries and we may seek buyers.”
The 193-year-old Royal Hotel, boasting a ballroom and nightclub, was taken over by new owners in 2008, with a Thai restaurant, The Royal Orchid, opened in a front suite. But a November 2011 probe into electricity supply irregularities was followed by a prohibition order after fire alarms and emergency lighting were found to be inoperable.
The hotel shut down after the arrest of three Bangladeshi men on site, in a UK Border Agency illegal immigration raid in January 2012, and it has stood empty ever since.