Telegraph Hotel in the Top 100

Coventry’s Telegraph Hotel has been named one of the top 100 hotels in Britain in a leading hospitality guide – just five months after opening

The luxury 4* hotel, which celebrates the cool Mid-Century style of the former Coventry Telegraph offices, has been included in the annual Sunday Times 100 Best British Hotels guide

The survey highlights the quality design of the hotel, and the food and drink served in the Forme & Chase bar and restaurant, and the Telegraph is one of only two hotels from the West Midlands chosen in the guide.

The Telegraph opened in May after a two-year, £18 million investment programme, and has won praise from a string of national media who have visited and reviewed the hotel.

Ian Harrabin, who with his brother Brian, developed and owns the hotel – which is operated by Bespoke Hotels – said this was the highest accolade to date.

He said: “To be included in the Sunday Times top 100 after just five months trading is testament to the quality and design of the Telegraph, but also to the team, led by Amy Windsor, who have provided such a high level of customer service.

“We had to twice delay opening because of Covid but have delivered what we promised – a hotel which not only provides something new and different to people visiting the city and the region, but will also attract people purely to sample what we have created.

“To see the Telegraph Hotel featured in the Sunday Times guide really is a reward to everyone involved in the project and hopefully it will drive more people to come experience the hotel, but also Coventry, in what is a massive year for the city.

The hotel, created by Complex Development Projects, has 88 individually-designed air-conditioned bedrooms including loft style penthouse suites on two levels.  

It features an all-day cocktail bar and restaurant dining experience, Forme & Chase, for a full meal, light bites, celebration dinners, afternoon tea and more. The bar and restaurant recreate the glamour of the 1950s retaining many of the building’s original features. 

Generators, the roof top bar which overlooks Belgrade Square, attracted 3,000 people in the first month is opened.

The hotel’s most luxurious room is the Lord Iliffe Suite – named after the family who started and until recently owned the newspaper – which includes its own hot tub and outdoor terrace.

There is also the spectacular Winter Garden – which is a private, glazed indoor terrace only accessible from the 11 bedrooms that surround it.

Conferencing, weddings and events are well catered for with the Editors function space – capable of accommodating up to 160 guests across a range of layouts.

There are also two private meeting rooms – the Boardroom and Directors – which can each accommodate up to 12 people for smaller meetings and private dinners

For further information about the Telegraph Hotel or to book a stay or meal visit www.telegraph-hotel.com

Huge NHS Art Installation coming to Coventry

Standing with Giants exhibition in Oxford will shortly be coming to Coventry. Photo BBC

Coventry citizens and visitors are invited to walk and move amongst 300 life-sized NHS inspired figures which will be on display from Monday 11 October until Friday 29 October 2021 at Coombe Abbey Country Park.

The installation is the work of ‘Standing with Giants’, a not-for-profit organisation based in Oxfordshire, founded by Artist, Dan Barton, and enabled by a team of dedicated community volunteers who have worked tirelessly this summer to create this poignant and epic tribute.

The unique figures are all created from upcycled composite aluminium boards and attached to steel frames. They are individually hand cut, painted and assembled, and took the team three months to produce.

The backs of the figures are painted black to symbolise remembrance, with a white face mask to represent the harsh realities of Covid-19. When viewed from the back you will see a sea of silhouettes with face masks.

When viewed from the front you will view a sea of colourful frontline workers. Visitors are given the opportunity to write their own thoughts and reflections on the backs of the silhouettes using a (provided) paint pen – these powerful and moving messages are now part of the display. The display is being used to fundraise for the project and ‘NHS Charities Together’.

Following a successful launch in Oxford in July, the installation will be making its way around the country – starting with Coventry.

“We are so excited to be visiting Coventry,” says Dan, “especially with it being the City of Culture this year. This is such a worthy and timely project and follows our ethos of remembering those who have given their lives for the freedom of others. This particular installation is to remember those NHS workers who lost their lives on the front line fighting Covid-19, whilst offering a massive thank you for the care and dedication given by current NHS and frontline staff, now and throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.  We have been overwhelmed by the amazing reactions from visitors, the heartfelt stories, the obvious need to grieve, and just the enormous positive energy towards the project”.

Coventry City Council are supporting Standing with Giants by hosting the outdoor exhibition at its Coombe Abbe Park venue.

The organisers are looking for volunteers to help with installing the figures and marshalling visitors during the event. If you’d like to be involved please email the organisers at info@standingwithgiants.co.uk

New Transport Strategy for Coventry

The City Council’s Cabinet has approved public consultation on a new transport strategy for the city. The strategy sets out a long-term (15 year) vision for the way that people and goods will travel to, from and around the city in the future.

Formal public consultation on the new strategy will take place before the end of the year and a final version of the strategy will then be adopted by the Council.

The main aim of the strategy is “to ensure that Coventry has a safe, sustainable, and resilient transport system, which ensures that all of Coventry’s residents, visitors, and businesses can thrive in the future.”

Specific proposals included in the Strategy and the first five year Implementation Plan include:

Very Light Rail (VLR)

The first VLR route will connect Coventry city centre to University Hospital. However, in the longer-term the plan is to develop a complete network of routes to provide residents with a fast, frequent and affordable connection to various major employment centres and ‘transport hubs’, where people will be able to easily change between various different modes of transport.

Rail Services

Following the current enhancement of Coventry Railway Station, the future plans include the addition of a fifth platform there. Also Tile Hill Station will be developed as a strategic Park and Ride scheme and a new railway station will be built in the south of the city, close to Warwick University. Potential new stations at Coundon, Foleshill and Binley/Willenhall will also be investigated.

Other elements of the plan include the aspiration to maintain the current three intercity services an hour to London and six services an hour to Birmingham following the opening of HS2 and the doubling of the frequency of services to Nuneaton, Kenilworth and Leamington to two trains per hour. The council would also like to double the frequency of services to Oxford, to two trains per hour and introduce at least two direct trains per hour to Leicester and Nottingham.

The council also want to improve the integration of railway stations with the city’s broader transport network, turning them into transport hubs where people can easily change between different modes of transport for both long and short distance travel. Improvements already completed at the Coventry Station include the expansion of car parking, improved pedestrian access to the city centre and improved cycle parking, but the proposed bus station, which involved buses reversing out of bus stops, is unlikely to be popular with bus operators or the public. In the longer-term, there will also be a VLR interchange.

Bus Services

A separate Bus Service Improvement Plan is to be developed with public transport partners. This will set out plans to ensure that all buses operating in the city are electric buses by 2025. The aim is to develop more bus services with ‘turn up and go’ frequencies on key routes and improve journey times on key routes by introducing bus priority measures, like bus gates and bus priority at signalised junctions. Let’s hope that lessons have been learned from the last attempt to do this!

It is planned to make improvements to ticketing by expanding the use of contactless payments, multi-operator tickets and ‘fare capping’ and expand the amount of live information at bus shelters. It is also planned to improve the accessibility of buses by increasing the number of spaces available for wheelchair users and for passengers traveling with prams or pushchairs.

City Centre Pedestrianisation

The council plans to expand the area of pedestrianisation in the city centre with the aim of making the whole area within the ring road an area that is designed primarily for pedestrians. To achieve this five city centre car parks will be removed and those that remain will be easily accessible from the ring road, minimising the extent to which cars will need to drive around within the city centre.

Pedestrian access in and out of the city centre will be improved by providing crossings of the ring road at various points by re-modelling ring road junctions to provide better pedestrian and cycle access building on the successful works already completed at Friargate.

Dedicated Cycleways

The plan is to introduce dedicated cycleways across the city, to make cycling safer and to ensure that cyclists do not have to share road space with car users on busy routes. Work is already underway on the next generation of cycleways, which will initially connect the city centre to Coundon and to Binley. However, the longer-term plans are for a complete network of cycleways spanning the city.

This new cycle network will also include strategic cycleways linking Coventry to neighbouring areas, Including connections to Solihull via Eastern Green and to Warwickshire, via Binley Woods, North on both the A444 corridor and via M6 Junction 2, and to Kenilworth in the South.

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) and School Streets

LTNs are residential areas where a variety of tools are used to significantly reduce traffic levels and to create a more comfortable environment for pedestrians and cyclists. This might include, for example, introducing 20mph speed limits, using bus gates to restrict the movement of private vehicles, creating more green space and installing cycle parking facilities for residents. School Streets are areas immediately surrounding schools where temporary road closures are introduced around opening and closing times.

The Council plans to bring forward a community-led programme of both LTNs and School Streets, with priority given to those neighbourhoods where there is a strong appetite for these measures among local residents, and then design them collaboratively with those residents.

Cycle hire and “micromobility”

In addition to the infrastructure improvements described above, Transport for the West Midlands has recently introduced a cycle hire scheme and the Council would like to increase the size and coverage of that scheme, and to extend it so that it also includes e-bikes.

The e-scooter rental scheme that was not successful in the city centre is proving to be more successful on the University of Warwick campus and the Council may seek to extend this to other parts of the city in due course. The current scheme is one of several national trials which are backed by central Government and which could lead to a change in the law to legalise the widespread use of e-scooters. Further progress is therefore dependent on the outcome of those trials.

Roads

Specific road improvements to be delivered over the lifetime of the Transport is strategy include various junction improvements on both the A46 and A444, a new strategic link road connecting the A46 at Stoneleigh Junction initially to the South of Coventry, and then ultimately to either Solihull or the West of Coventry, a further new strategic link road through the planned new development at Keresley, new roads, and the improvement of some existing ones, in the vicinity Friargate. The London Road corridor is to be improved including junction improvements, traffic management and cycle routes.

Highway maintenance

The Council says that it will seek to maintain all of the city’s highways, including roads, footpaths and cycleways, to a high standard. They plan to do this through a separate Highways Infrastructure Asset Management Strategy. If this actually happens it might be the most significant and useful part of the new Transport Strategy.

Traffic management and enforcement

The Council plans to increase traffic management enforcement to assist with the roll of autonomous vehicles in the city. This will include 5G monitoring and preparing the road network for the rollout of Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs). This will include enabling testing to take place on a newly installed CAV testbed.

Testing and developing autonomous vehicles in our city is perhaps the most fool-hardy elements of the new transport strategy. It is hard to understand why so much money is being spent on something of little or no benefit to Coventry citizens. The gantries along the A45 will hardly improve the appearance of the city.

The expansion of enforcement action in the city is likely to be extreme. The strategy calls for the expansion of the existing average speed cameras to all of the main radial routes in the city over the lifetime of the strategy. The move from controlling speed through physical measures to camera enforcement is not likely to be a popular change.

In addition to average speed cameras the Council plans to strengthen enforcement of moving traffic offences, such as drivers making banned turns, stopping in yellow boxes and passing through bus gates. On street parking offences, such as parking on double yellow lines and perhaps most controversially ‘pavement parking’ are also to be targeted. The Government has recently consulted on options to give Councils new powers to take action against drivers who cause an obstruction for pedestrians, and so the approach to this will depend on the outcome of that consultation.

Zero Emission Vehicles

To support the take-up of electric and other zero emission vehicles by the Council will substantially expand the city’s existing network of public electric vehicle charge points and create super charging hubs and a multi-fuel hub. These will be service station style facilities located on the Strategic Route Network which will provide rapid charging/refuelling facilities for owners of zero emission vehicles.

The strategy also encourages local businesses to switch to electric vehicles via the Try Before You Buy E-fleet scheme. The city will also pilot innovative methods of electric vehicle charging, including static induction (wireless) charging and dynamic charging (charging of a moving vehicle). These technologies could help to support operators of different types of vehicles, including larger vehicles and vehicles with very high mileage, to switch to zero emission alternatives.

The Council will also electrify Coventry’s public transport services. As well as replacing all buses with electric vehicles by 2025, the will also begin only granting taxi licenses to zero emission capable vehicles from 2024.

Freight

The strategy does not have much to say about freight, only the hope of reducing congestion and emissions from freight travel, such as home deliveries, by encouraging and supporting companies to switch to zero emission vehicles and introducing innovative technology such as using drones to transport both passengers and goods.

The Council wants to explore options to establish freight consolidation centres where goods travelling into and out of the city can be collected and transferred to a sustainable mode of transport for the first/last few miles of their journey. This could be, for example, a zero emission van, an e-cargo bike, VLR or a delivery drone. It seems unlikely that this idea will prove beneficial.

Encouraging behaviour change

The physical improvement strategy is to be supported by a programme of actively encouraging a change in residents’ behaviour. This will include providing better information to residents about the full range of travel options that are available.

Conclusions

The strategy has some very good elements which will improve transport in the city. However the inclusion of daft ideas such as using drones and autonomous vehicles detracts from what is otherwise a very sound set of proposals. If the Council really can improve the quality of road maintenance they will certainly get a thumbs up from Coventry citizens.

Operator Appointed for Historic Buildings

CovSoc visit to the city gates in May

Coventry Historic Trust has appointed an operator to manage six historic buildings being launched as boutique holiday and visitor accommodation in October.

The Trust has appointed Coventry-based heritage attraction specialists, No Ordinary Hospitality Management, to promote and operate the properties, following on from their recent appointment by the Council to operate St Mary’s Guildhall.

Historic Coventry Trust’s £1.5m partnership project with Coventry City Council to restore and convert the city’s two medieval gates and the three Lychgate Cottages in Priory Row is nearing completion, bringing new life to ancient buildings that have lain underused for decades. The buildings were originally built between 1385 and 1440 and are rare survivors of the city’s medieval heyday.

CovSoc member Graham Tait, Assistant Director of the Historic Coventry Trust, who has managed the delivery of the project, said: “This is the culmination of 12 months of painstaking restoration work which followed years of planning and fundraising to bring the project to fruition. This has only been possible through our close partnership with the Council who have transferred the buildings to the Trust on a 250-year lease. The project forms part of the ground-breaking Framework Agreement entered into between the Trust and Council in 2019 covering many of the city’s most important heritage assets.

“The results of the works really are stunning and give Coventry a unique set of accommodation which will allow people to stay in historic properties while exploring what the city and region has to offer. The timing is perfect as the city gets into gear in its year of culture with lockdown restrictions lifting.”

There are four properties in Priory Row which can cater for parties from two to six, while the Cook Street and Swanswell Gates can accommodate two people each.

The project has been funded by Architectural Heritage Fund, the Council’s Cultural Capital Investment Fund and the Government’s Getting Building Fund through the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP). The framework partnership with the Council has attracted national attention with the Trust’s entrepreneurial model of sustainable reuse of heritage buildings set to be adopted by other cities following a string of successful restoration projects including The Burges/Hales Street regeneration, London Road Cemetery, Charterhouse and Drapers’ Hall.

The accommodation will be available to book soon, through the Historic Coventry Trust’s website. Heritage Trust Executive Director Carol Pyrah will be attending the November CovSoc meeting to tell us more.

Draper’s Hall Due to re-open in November

Draper’s Hall, still under wraps during the CovSo visit in July

Drapers’ Hall, in Bayley Lane is opening this Autumn as a venue for music and music education following a £5m restoration project led by Historic Coventry Trust in partnership with Coventry City Council.

An extensive programme of performances has been announced to accompany the opening. This includes:

  • Songwriter and broadcaster Tom Robinson
  • Swedish violinist Johan Dalene
  • Award-winning saxophonist and finalist in the 2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year Jess Gillam
  • Stratford-based Orchestra of the Swan, Coventry University’s Orchestra in Residence
  • Internationally-known harpist Catrin Finch
  • Tuba player and composer Theon Cross
  • The Jubilee Quarter

The Grade II* listed Drapers’ Hall

 is the finest Regency building in the city and was built in 1832 by the Drapers Guild as a place to entertain Coventry’s high society.  The building has been preserved unused by the Council whilst awaiting a new use for over 30 years and is a time capsule of Regency splendour.  Historic Coventry Trust have been granted a 250-year lease by the Council and will manage the building as a home for Coventry Music Service and a music and events venue.

The major restoration project has been supported by the Prince’s Foundation as one of seven projects for the Prince of Wales’s 70th birthday. Funding has been provided by the Council through its Cultural Capital programme for UK City of Culture with substantial support from, and funding from, Arts Council England and Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, via the Government’s Local Growth Fund and the Getting Building Fund.

Further funding has been provided by Garfield Weston Foundation, Wolfson Foundation, Foyle Foundation, the Prince of Wales Charitable Foundation, Swire Charitable Trust, London and Coventry Drapers Guilds, Alan Edward Higgs Charity, 29th May 61 Charitable Trust, Backstage Trust, Architectural Heritage Fund and Allchurches Trust.

The Historic Coventry Trust has appointed Hannah Pierce as Programmer and General Manager of Drapers’ Hall. She said “We are delighted to present this season of shows, supported by the Arts Council, as our inaugural programme. Each performance has been carefully chosen to sit within our new and intimate performance space. These are shows that embody quality, a breadth of musical experience and, most importantly to us, inspire the people of Coventry.”

Hannah will be coming to the November CovSoc meeting to tell us more about the programme.

Tickets for all the shows are available at The Drapers Hall website.