Future of Princess Diana's childhood home is thrown into doubt

Future of Princess Diana's childhood home is thrown into doubt

November 6, 2020

Future of Princess Diana’s childhood home is thrown into doubt as charity cancels £2.3m revamp plans and owners start search for new tenants

  • Leonard Cheshire charity announced it will no longer be operating Park House
  • Major renovation to increase its number of bedrooms from 16 to 24 was planned
  • But charity has since said work will not go ahead and it wants to exit its lease

The future of Princess Diana’s childhood home on the Sandringham estate has been thrown into doubt after a charity cancelled its £2.3million revamp.  

The Leonard Cheshire charity has announced that it will no longer be operating Park House, which had been used as a hotel for the disabled, with the owners now searching for new tenants. 

The house was famously where Diana Spencer was born on July 1, 1961, when her family were renting it from the Queen. 

She continued living there until she was aged 14 in 1976 when she moved to her family’s stately home Althorp House after her father John inherited his title Earl Spencer.

The future of Princess Diana’s childhood home (pictured) on the Sandringham estate has been thrown into doubt after a charity cancelled its £2.3million revamp

The Leonard Cheshire charity has announced that it will no longer be operating Park House (interior pictured) which had been used as a hotel for the disabled

The Queen gave Park House and its grounds to international disability charity Leonard Cheshire in 1983 and it opened as a hotel offering respite care for the disabled and their families four years later.

The charity temporarily closed the facility in September last year for major renovation work to increase its number of bedrooms from 16 to 24.

It also wanted to cover its open air swimming pool and improve disability access, saying it wanted ‘to offer disabled visitors and their families a world class experience at this iconic location’.

Building work costing £2.3million was due to start this year but was shelved due to the coronavirus epidemic. 

Leonard Cheshire has now announced that the work will not go ahead and it wants to exit its lease, due to financial pressures.

A total of 70 full and part time staff at the hotel have been made redundant – although the majority lost their jobs last year. 

Park House was famously where Diana Spencer (pictured alongside Prince Charles) was born on July 1, 1961, when her family were renting it from the Queen

Building work costing £2.3million was due to start at the property (pictured) this year but was shelved due to the coronavirus epidemic

The plans had included erecting a cover over its open air swimming pool (pictured) and improve disability access

The Sandringham estate now hopes to find a new tenant for the property but is reluctant to rent it out as a private home.

A spokesperson for the estate said: ‘We understand the Leonard Cheshire decision and are sad that their long association with Park House is ending under such circumstances. 

‘We will look for a new occupier and hope to find a use that generates similar benefits to the local community and the wider area.’

Leonard Cheshire founded his own charitable foundation after heroic service as one of the RAF’s youngest commanding officers in World War Two.

He spent eight months leading No. 617 Squadron – the Dambusters – and became the UK’s most highly decorated bomber pilot when awarded the Victoria Cross in 1944.

He began nursing a dying man who had nowhere else to go at his home in Hampshire in 1948 and by the following year he was looking after 24 residents with complex needs, illnesses and impairments. 

The Sandringham estate now hopes to find a new tenant for the property (pictured) but is reluctant to rent it out as a private home

Cheshire who married Sue Ryder in 1959 was admitted to the Order of Merit in 1981, and made a life peer in the House of Lords in 1991. He died from the effects of motor neurone disease in 1992, at the age of 74.

The Leonard Cheshire charity announced the closure of Park House in a statement on its website.

It said: ‘Since the original plan of September 2019 detailing an agreement to spend £2.3m redeveloping Park House – and match fund the same amount for further investment – cash resources and fundraising have understandably been shifted in response to the pandemic.

‘Costs associated with the project have also risen significantly.

‘The current fundraising environment is hugely challenging and the costs to undertake the planned project have escalated well beyond the original estimates.

‘The expenditure would be difficult both in terms of affordability and being the right thing to do for our beneficiaries.

‘We therefore cannot justify that outlay considering the current barriers that disabled people face across the world and coupled with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and the impact to our work, it’s been proposed to discontinue the redevelopment and work with Sandringham Estate to exit the lease.

‘We understand the loyalty and affection our regular guests have for the hotel and we will be contacting them individually.

‘Our current focus remains the provision of our care and support services, the people who live with us and those who benefit from our programmes across the world. During these unprecedented times, this is more important than ever.

‘We will continue to work closely with the Sandringham Estate on Park House’s immediate future.   

It comes after the Companions of Park House support group announced their decision to disband last month.

One of the reasons given for the decision was that there was no immediate prospect of the hotel re-opening.

Phil Davies, from the Companions, said: ‘We are very sad that this appears to signal the end of Park House as a Leonard Cheshire hotel.

‘We are particularly sorry that this fantastic facility will no longer be available for disabled guests and their carers, many of whom were regular visitors as this was the only place available to them for holiday respite.’

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