Eastbourne Borough Council has been ordered to pay appeal costs over plans to convert part of a hotel into flats.
The order came after the planning inspectorate found the council had acted unreasonably by failing make a decision on the application within a timely manner.
The appeal was made over plans to convert the three-star Courtlands Hotel in Wilmington Gardens into a 15-bedroom boutique guest house and 15 apartments.
While the inspector agreed the time delay had been unreasonable, the change of use application was dismissed.
Planning inspector, Louise Phillips, said, “Ultimately, I have dismissed the appeal on the basis that the planning obligations I have found to be necessary would not be legally binding or enforceable.
“However, there is no suggestion that this matter delayed the determination of the application, whereas I have found that the Council behaved unreasonably in respect of the main substantive issue of the appeal.”
The hotel, owned by Matthew Hodgson, falls inside Eastbourne’s Tourism Accommodation Zone, which means applications to reduce hotel beds can be rejected immediately unless the business’s future is proven unviable.
Courtlands Hotel, supported by the Eastbourne Hospitality Association (EHA) argued the hotel was no longer a viable business as there are too many hotels of a similar quality in the area while the coach holiday market was in decline.
The council challenged several assumptions made by the hotel’s report the but third-party report by BPS chartered surveyors broadly agreed with the hotel’s conclusion.
They added it may be better to lose rooms in the accomodation area now rather than all 45 through further decline.
The planning inspector agreed with the report but said the plans could meet the requirments for affordable housing and dismissed the application on these grounds.
Darren Weir, Chairman of the EHA has said, “I am delighted that the Planning Inspector listened to the view of the Association and gave our comments such weight.
“It was clear on our reading of the evidence that the Courtlands Hotel had satisfied the stringent demands of the Council’s planning guidance.”
The EHA, which represents 150 hoteliers in Eastbourne, wants the council to consider reducing the tourism zone.
Darren Weir continued, “The planning committee though is just fixated on this idea that we must retain bed spaces whatever the cost. It is a stance that must change.
“I am though concerned that we have in our planning committee councillors who fail to listen – the latest example being that of refusing rides on the pier - which has had and is having a detrimental effect on this year’s summer season.”
A spokesman for the council said, “The appeal made by Mr Hodgson was dismissed by the Government’s Planning Inspector.
“An application for costs has been awarded for his appeal expenses but no claim for this has yet been received by the council.
“As a popular tourist town, it is crucial that we ensure enough accommodation is provided for holidaymakers and for that reason we established a Tourism Accommodation Zone.
“This zone is being considered as part of the Seafront Local Plan public consultation currently underway.The future designation of this zone is one element of the Seafront Local Plan.”
You can take part in the public consultation by visiting www.eastbourne.gov.uk/seafront, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to Regeneration & Planning Policy, Eastbourne Borough Council, 1 Grove Road, Eastbourne, BN21 4TW.
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