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  1. ITV Report

What next for Exeter's Royal Clarence hotel after it was destroyed by fire three years ago

It's been more than three years since the destruction of the Royal Clarence hotel in Exeter - but what happens now?

It occupies part of the most important areas of Exeter tourist wise, and traders and other business owners are getting increasingly frustrated by the lack of progress on the site and the hoardings which only hide an empty construction site now that the portacabins and cranes have gone.

Some are left wondering will it ever be restored?

The fire began just metres from Exeter Cathedral

The exact cause and location of the start of the fire was never established, and the restoration of the building next door, where flames were first seen is well underway.

Andrew Brownsword the owner of the Royal Clarence chose to sell the site with planning permission for a new hotel last summer with a guide price of £2million.

An offer by the owner of the neighbouring property was rejected, but in the meantime traders are demanding the hoarding is scaled back.

They say it occupies far too much space creating bottlenecks for visitors, stealing light and shielding the view from some angles for passing trade.

The hoardings in place around the site of the former Royal Clarence hotel have caused controversy.

I understand a second round of bids for the site has taken place. But, even if a buyer is selected now, it may be months before fresh building work takes place.

Andrew Brownsword Hotels, said the site remains up for sale - with "all parties working together to achieve its sale".

It added that the cordons were in place for safety reasons.

Until the site is sold, its hoarding serves many purposes including to protect both the site and the city’s residents, and also to enable essential vehicular access to maintain scaffolding and to pump water out when necessary.

The reduction of the cordon size could only return a small area to Cathedral Green, but the option will be explored if a sale is not concluded soon. Every effort has, and will continue to be made to ensure the site is maintained as safely as possible.

– Andrew Brownsword Hotels
Aerial pictures of the fire being put out at the time show the scale of the blaze. Credit: Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue

The owner of the nearby Southernhay House hotel, Deborah Clarke, has described the site as an "embarrassment for Exeter" and like many others, wants to see progress.

But what should happen now? She and other business owners question whether another 74 bedroom hotel without parking is viable, particularly as work is about to get underway to transform the upper stories of the House of Fraser store close by into another hotel.

So should other uses be considered? Her suggestions include the idea of creating an arcade with shops celebrating local produce on the ground floor with apartments above.