40 years ago this coming Saturday, the first episode of, arguably, the best comedy series ever to be shown on telly premiered on BBC2. Fawlty Towers has long been said to have been based on the experiences of the Monty Python comedy team staying at the Gleneagles Hotel in the seaside town of Torquay. The idea came from the brilliant mind palace of original Python member, John Cleese and his then wife, Connie Booth, after Cleese became fascinated with the owner’s way of running his hotel.
Cleese’s character of Basil Fawlty was patterned after Gleneagles owner, Donald Sinclair, whom once described as “the rudest man I’ve ever come across in my life”. While the twelve (yes, there were only twelve) episodes of Fawlty Towers have and will forever continue to grace the small screen for years to come, the Gleneagles closed in January of this past year.
While there have been numerous applications to resurrect the vacant hotel in some form or fashion, with the latest for 36 flats turned down by councillors in February, retirement housebuilder Churchill Retirement Living, has submitted a new planning application for 33 retirement housing apartments.
Churchill’s plans for the one and two bedroom retirement housing development will replace the vacant Gleneagles Hotel structure currently occupying the site providing attractive, high quality, self-contained apartments in landscaped grounds complete with lodge manager, 24-hour careline, owners’ lounge, guest suite and laundry room.
If the application is approved and consent is achieved, the redevelopment will be scheduled for completion in early 2017. While there will be no Mrs. Richards or Miss Tibbs or Miss Gatsby booked and you won’t be able to see Sydney Opera House, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon or herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically across the plain out your window, I’m thinking this might just be something to consider.
Andrew Burgess, planning director of Churchill Retirement Living said: “There is real need for private retirement housing in the Torbay area and our proposed development in Torquay will go some way to increasing access this type of housing for local residents”.
Both Fawlty Towers and the Gleneagles survived longer than the original building used for the exterior shots of the hotel in the series, the Woodburn Grange Country Club. After it was damaged by fire in 1991, it was purchased by developers. Eight houses now stand in its place, though there was planning permission for a 39 bed hotel.