For something like a decade-and-a-half the former Slatters Hotel site in St Margaret’s Street and the onetime Ha! Ha! bar have formed a seemingly interminable blot on Canterbury’s urban landscape.
It’s not just that the rundown buildings were supremely ugly, but also that demolishing them was stalled by red tape and legal complications about ownership.
The result was years inactivity – and a pigeon shit-splattered sore in one of Canterbury’s greatest streets.
Like others, therefore, I was delighted when the architect Guy Hollaway was commissioned to design a new hotel for the site.
Modern and intelligent, the design was unlike anything else in the street and, one would hope, like other buildings become an example of the style of its day.
This is what makes architecture in Canterbury so interesting: it lacks uniformity. Each building tells a tale of its time.
But this being Canterbury also meant that one can’t do anything that might be a general good without people trying to stand in the way of it for their own purposes.
Hollaway’s design, we were told, was not sympathetic to the area. Certain commentators thought the new building should blend in – or “bland in” – as some of us describe this process.
There’s a perfect example of blanding in opposite Slatters in the shape of the charmless faux-Georgian building which houses the offices of accountants Kreston Reeves. That should be enough to put others off these types of designs.
Thankfully, however, Canterbury City Council’s planning committee saw sense and approved the design, which includes a rooftop restaurant offering unique and panoramic views of the city centre looking towards the Cathedral.
And now the archaeologists have carried out their vital work, the time is nigh for action: just get on and build the bloody hotel.
Alex Claridge has been a journalist for nearly 20 years and won the 2016 Kent Press and Broadcast Award for columnist of the year.