Call for action at troubled hotel as couple find woman in room at 5am
- Credit: Danielle Booden
A couple were woken at 5am by a woman screaming about a knife in the latest incident at a budget hotel which has brought "misery" to neighbours for years.
Leanne and Tim Parr have today told how police were called to the Cathedral Hotel, on Earlham Road, after the woman 'burst into their room screaming'.
It is the latest in a long line of incidents and comes just a few weeks after a couple told this newspaper how they had only lasted 45 minutes at the hotel before the upsetting conditions drove them out. A local councillor, meanwhile, has called for reassurances ongoing issues would be resolved.
Today, the latest owners of the hotel — which has repeatedly changed hands in the last year — pledged renovation works and staffing changes to ensure such problems would be brought to an end.
The latest incident happened on Sunday, July 4, while Mr and Mrs Parr, 33 and 34 respectively, were in the city on a break from their home in Ely.
The woman burst into their room, before Mrs Parr followed her into the corridor, where she accused the couple of being in her bed and claimed she'd lost her knife.
Police attended the property, formerly known as the Governor's Lodge building of Hotel NR2, and escorted the woman to safety. They confirmed no crimes had been committed, and it is understood the woman is receiving treatment.
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Mrs Parr said: "My concern wasn't that we were interrupted at all. It was the safety of this poor woman.
"She was clearly vulnerable and unwell, but she was living in a hotel alongside tourists.
"Somehow she was able to gain access to our room despite us locking the door with our key-card."
There are concerns that some of the problems have been caused by the fact the location is used as a hotel - but also as accommodation for vulnerable people.
Norfolk County Council, Norwich City Council and Breckland, Broadland and South Norfolk District Councils have all placed tenants at the hotel in the past, sometimes for more than a month.
The probation service likewise used the hotel during 2020 to house offenders at risk of homelessness.
Denise Carlo, councillor for Norwich's Nelson ward, said she wanted assurance the hotel would drastically improve, with police being called to the hotel almost every day during the first lockdown.
She said: "Residents in the Earlham Road area suffered years of low standards and anti-social behaviour from The Beeches and The Governors.
"It is essential they employ on-site staff to provide a safe and clean environment.
"The council and police will need to take a strong line if problems persist and another decade of misery for the local community is to be avoided."
She added that if local authorities and agencies did ever send vulnerable people there in the future, they needed to guarantee there is adequate support for tenants' wellbeing.
Speaking on behalf of the new owners Shop on Time Ltd, who took over in March 2021, Neville Karnello said the hotel was "phasing out council contracts" and would only be accepting private guests moving forward.
He said: "There are a couple of vulnerable tenants left, but this won't be for much longer. It will be run solely as a hotel.
"We are renovating one of the buildings and will be employing a whole new set of staff.
"I can't comment on individual guests' stays, but we are in a transitionary period and things will improve."
Couple Resa and Peter Saunders, 54 and 58 from Bedfordshire, had a similarly horrific experience at the hotel on June 19 — lasting 45 minutes before fleeing to a Travelodge.
They said there was a smell of sewage in the room, mould all over the windows, stains on the bed and carpets, and doors and toilets hanging off their hinges.
She said: "Nobody deserves to live in those conditions — whether that's council tenants or paying guests."
The Saunders received a 50pc refund — but the Parrs have not heard from the manager, based in Dudley, since they paid £75 for a last-minute stay.
A Freedom of Information request revealed Norfolk Constabulary has recorded 324 incidents at the hotel since August 2019, 46 of which included violence.
Police say they are working with the new management to resolve antisocial behaviour concerns raised by neighbours, while Norwich City Council's Environmental Health team has been to investigate the property on health and safety grounds following guests' concerns.
The councils said they were not aware of any security issues or concerns when placing people there.
At the beginning of the pandemic last year, Norwich and Breckland rented out the whole building for rough sleepers as part of the "Everyone In" initiative. Neither council has had any tenants there since.
A spokesman for Breckland said: “At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic the hotel and rooms were well-managed and the accommodation was suitable for use.”
Currently, Broadland and South Norfolk each have a tenant at the hotel. A spokeswoman said they are visited on a weekly basis, and that they are only placed in such accommodation as a last resort.
Fran Whymark, councillor for Broadland, added: "Housing officers are in constant contact with all temporary housing residents to ensure their wellbeing and address concerns."
The hotel has changed hands repeatedly since March 2020.
It was originally run by Tony Burlingham through his company MJB Services Team Ltd and then Hotel NR2 Ltd, and was for years dogged by terrible reviews and complaints of prostitution, drug-taking and antisocial behaviour.
Receivers were appointed in May 2020 when his wife Maxine, who owned the property, defaulted on her secured borrowing.
Liquidator, Levitas, appointed a social housing company from Birmingham, Aspect Housing Limited, to manage its new clients when the Burlinghams left in May 2020.
From November 2020, under manager Stuart Turner, the site was rebranded as a charitable shelter with the aim of rehabilitating rough sleepers.
However, Mr Turner's dream was cut short when he died in April at the age of 56. He had been out feeding homeless people just hours before.
Aspect Housing put in an offer for the hotel to Levitas while it was up for sale, but released their contract to Shop on Time Ltd in March 2021, a tiny Birmingham-based company with two directors.