PLANS to open a 65-bed hotel in the heart of Eastbourne town centre have been welcomed by council bosses.
Premier Inn hopes to convert the former Co-op building into a hotel with shops and a restaurant on the ground floor plus visitors’ accommodation above it.
Although the plans still have to be considered within the planning process, Eastbourne Borough Council’s chief executive Rob Cottrill said, “It is very encouraging that in a challenging economic climate, the town is attracting this scale of potential investment.
“This news follows a lot of hard negotiations between local and national agents and the council’s Economic Development Unit and other council officers.”
The potential redevelopment of the site also comes at the height of a fierce debate in the town over its reputation and future growth which has prompted an avalanche of letters to the Herald.
The landmark building, on the corner of Terminus Road and Trinity Trees, has been empty since the Co-operative Group shut its doors in 2006.
The blueprint for the major site marks the latest chapter in the building’s long and controversial history.
Originally built in the 1930s, the Art Deco building operated as a shop. The store shut down after the Co-operative Group announced poor trading performances.
Its 16 staff were offered redundancy packages.
Developers originally wanted to demolish the building and replace it with a six storey building with retail units on the ground floor and residential flats above, but those plans were turned down by Eastbourne Borough Council’s planning committee.
A lengthy and costly appeal followed with a government inspector granting planning permission and Eastbourne taxpayers left with a £55,000 legal bill.
Despite the best efforts of council officials from the town’s economic development, the building has remained empty and derelict – until the latest planning application, which was submitted in February.
A spokesperson for Premier Inn said, “We propose to extend and refurbish the existing building and the aim of the development is to improve and enhance the character of the building and the local environment with the recycling of the existing building accommodation in order to provide a commercially viable development.”