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31st Mar 2022

Britain’s luckiest squatter lives alone in run-down hotel that used to be one of the best in Britain

Steve Hopkins

The Grosvenor Hotel was built in Bristol in 1875 and has been sitting unused for two decades

Meet Britain’s luckiest squatter who lives in a rundown grand hotel that used to be one of the finest in the country – all on his own.

Tom, who declined to give his surname, moved into Bristol’s Grosvenor Hotel after he pushed on a keycard door and it miraculously opened.

The 150-year-old hotel has been left unused for about two decades – with rotting furniture filling the rooms and graffiti covering the walls.

Tom, who grew up in Hertfordshire and has lived in Bristol for six weeks, came across the hotel after struggling to find any official support after leaving rehab.

“I had found a key card down an alleyway and it just happened that when I used it on the swipe, the door opened,” he explained, though he believes the door was already open and the keycard didn’t in fact open it.

Tom has since started doing up the massive building which was built in 1875, “slowly tidying up each room one at a time”.

Every night he climbs the grand staircase to use one of the various rooms and enjoys stunning views across the city.

Although Tom has to dodge precarious floors and beware of non-existent ceilings, he has created a living room with a sofa, a table, and a few chairs and has even painted a few walls.

“You can tell this place used to be the real crème de la crème,” Tom says.

”Some of the wood, the dark mahogany wood, the wallpaper, the ornateness around the high ceilings, the detailed work.

”There is so much heritage here. The people who have come through this place are amazing.”

Tom said he really enjoys living in “this wonderful building” and believes it could be used to home Ukrainian refugees displaced since Russia’s invasion began last month: ”Maybe this hotel could be an answer to some short-term problems”.

Grosvenor Hotel is caught in a planning row and Tom could be the last ever resident.

The long-running saga of the ”eyesore” near Temple Meads rail station reached its latest chapter this week.

A report updating Bristol City Council plans to use a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) to acquire the former hotel in order to redevelop the land on which it is located.

A ‘decision pathway’ submitted to cabinet includes plans for a Joint Development & Land Agreement (JDLA) for the development of the Temple Square site (including another former hotel, the George & Railway) and the purchase of Station Approach, as well as the proposed acquisition of land at Temple Square including the former Grosvenor Hotel.

The proposed CPO of the Grosvenor is part of a scheme expected to cost between £16-19m and deliver “significant city benefits”.

A decision on the future of the land and the buildings sitting on it – once bisected by a famous flyover – will be taken by Bristol’s cabinet.

Bristol City Council senior development surveyor, Jan Reichel, said in her report: “The development will have the potential to achieve high sustainability outcomes, based on design proposals and the excellent accessibility of the developments at the heart of the Temple Quarter and near to Temple Meads Station.”

Tom though says the Grosvenor Hotel is not just a name on a report or a building to be acquired by developers – it is his home.

”I often think about the transition between the people on the outside of the building going about their day to day, trying to race for something,” he pondered.

”I’m sat here with infinite time, trying to collect myself in my own bits of meditation, but at the same time feeling like I can keep myself busy as there’s a lot to do.”

The council want to buy land at Temple Square including the former Grosvenor Hotel “to support the wider redevelopment and regeneration of the Temple Quarter area”.

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