Thomas Hardy hotel in Dorchester revamp 'imminent'

Kings Arms Hotel in Dorchester
Image caption Owners Stay Original hope to reopen the Kings Arms by the end of 2019

The long-awaited revamp of a hotel central to a Thomas Hardy novel is due to begin in February, its owner has said.

The Kings Arms in Dorchester was due to be refurbished in 2016 by Stay Original, but work is yet to begin.

The company, which owns the building through subsidiary Draco Dorchester, said work was now "imminent".

It said contractor Stepnell was in the process of finalising planning conditions and scaffolding licences.

The hotel, which featured in Hardy's novel The Mayor of Casterbridge, closed in November 2015 after going into receivership 10 months earlier under a previous owner.

Somerset-based Stay Original, previously known as Draco, planned to reopen it in early 2017 and initially blamed planning delays for the hold-up.

Director James Brooke-Webb said he hoped the building would open either at the end of 2019 or early 2020, depending on whether contractors ran into "anything unexpected".

Dorchester town councillor Stella Jones previously expressed concern about the deterioration of the Grade II* building in High East Street.

According to the Best Western group, to which the hotel was previously affiliated, guests at the hotel have included Queen Victoria, King George IV, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Stay Original, which is based in Pilton, owns four other pubs and hotels in Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire.

Image caption The weather has taken its toll on the exterior of the 300-year-old coaching inn

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