Anstey Hall owner John de Bruyne: ‘I want this place to live on for the community after I’m gone’
The owner of the historic Anstey Hall in Trumpington believes building a retirement village in the hall’s grounds would help share the building with the community.
John de Bruyne, 78, said he does not want to see Anstey Hall turned into private flats, and is keen that it continues after he has gone.
In September, Cambridge City Council rejected his planning application to build 87 two-bedroom retirement flats in the grounds of the hall.
Under the plans, the hall itself was proposed to offer community space on the ground floor, while the second floor would house staff and short-term guest accommodation.
Councillors rejected the plans after council officers said they would “consume a substantial portion of protected open space” and English Heritage objected, but they did say they were open to revised proposals.
Mr de Bruyne said he disagreed with these concerns and said the retirement homes would enable him to share Anstey Hall with the community.
He now revised proposals that he hopes will gain support from councillors.
“I want to find the optimal viable use to keep this house going, and that provides the finances to keep it running forever,” he said.
“If you can think of a better use, or any reader can think of a better use that pays for itself, it is never going to be a house for one guy. The heating bills per year are around £40,000.
“We are offering to create a public square. People will be able to come right up and see the house. We can sometimes have tea on the terrace - that is the vision. It would be nice to share it.”
Mr de Bruyne bought Anstey Hall 25 years ago and said it was a “mess” at the time. He had carpenters in for three years repairing parts of it, but said the continued upkeep was expensive.
He explained that he had tried running Anstey Hall as a boutique hotel, but it did not make any money, and he described hosting weddings as a “nightmare”.
Mr de Bruyne revealed a couple of people every month typically approach him asking him to turn Anstey Hall into private flats.
Under his retirement village plans, he hopes to link up with Anglia Ruskin University to offer art students the chance to visit and see the paintings he has collected, as well as holding other community events and classes.
Mr de Bruyne said: “I can see pilates classes upstairs. These facilities we have got, the locals can use as well.
“One day I won’t be here because I will be dead and I would like it to go on. I want it to be part of the community, I do not want some rich computer guy to put electronic gates on it.
“It will just be good to keep it up after me.”