Approval has been achieved for a £36 million redevelopment at Raymond Blanc’s world-famous Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons hotel and restaurant in Great Milton, Oxfordshire.

South Oxfordshire District Council’s (SODC) planning committee approved the plans by five votes to four with one abstention at its meeting on June 29. Alterations to the listed building were approved unanimously.

The plan, which is in the Green Belt and could still be called in by the Secretary of State, attracted passionate debate for and against.

The venue is to add:

  • A new wellness spa
  • A new ‘Bistro Deluxe’
  • New garden villas and suites
  • New pavilions and storage barns

Chair of Great Milton Parish Council Cllr Stephen Harrod told the meeting: “Oxfordshire’s visitor economy was the hardest hit because of the pandemic and it’s essential that this sector is sustained.

“Le Manoir is an important part of this sector and must diversify its offering to make sure it continues to changing preferences and expectations of its global client base.

“This is critical to maintaining its position as one of the world’s finest hotel experiences.”

Raymond Blanc himself spoke at the meeting. He said: “The modern guest is embracing moral values towards responsible luxury and the environment and they are looking for authentic multi-faceted experiences.

“It is essential that we reinvent Le Manoir and prepare it for tomorrow.”

But SODC councillors’ views varied widely. Cllr Lorraine Hillier called the business a ‘perfect custodian of a Grade II*-listed building who has looked after it impeccably’.

Cllr Elizabeth Gillespie told the meeting she admired what Raymond Blanc had done for the reputation of the area but opposed the scheme because she believed it would harm the Green Belt.

And Cllr Alan Thompson said: “It just seems to me there aren’t any benefits, it’s all bad news. There’s no way I can support this at all.”

After the meeting, Sarah Moorhouse, associate director for Lichfields which planned the scheme, said: “This has been a fantastic job to work on with Raymond Blanc, Belmond and the consultant team.

“The proposed enhancements at Le Manoir will result in a major investment in Oxfordshire and give rise to many economic and sustainability benefits.

“We are delighted that SODC members recognised these in resolving to grant planning permission and listed building consent.”

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