FORTFIELD FUTURE VISION: Early designs for blaze-hit Sidmouth building

THIS vision could rise from the ashes of Sidmouth’s fire-hit Fortfield Hotel- and could be a reality in a year’s time, would-be developers have revealed.

The driving force behind a bid to demolish the derelict building, and replace it with up to 48 apartments, has offered the town �1million to boost tourism.

However, ZeroC’s intent not to site any holiday accommodation or affordable homes at the site attracted criticism at a public exhibition last Wednesday.

The firm’s managing director, Kim Slowe, said a cash contribution would be made to compensate for both aspects - and those funds could be used elsewhere in the town.

Sidmouth tourism and business leaders objected to the loss of a hotel while some residents were sceptical over early designs.

More than 150 people packed the Cellar Bar at Kennaway House to see and hear about early Fortfield designs for the first time. It was standing room only for the first of two sessions.

“The sooner that building comes down the better,” said Mr Slowe.

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He added a formal planning application could be submitted to East Devon District by late February, and, that if planning permission was approved in July, work would start within six weeks.

The apartment block would take around four months to construct.

Mr Slowe added the new building would be the same size, and in the same footprint, as the existing structure.

He said lawns to the west of the hotel would be used as amenity space for the apartments.

An underground car park at the site would have 43 spaces with a further ten above ground.

Some residents labelled early blueprints as “too ambitious” and asked: “Why can’t you build another hotel?”

One told the developer: “Go away with your architect and come up with something a bit more suitable.”

“It’s not in keeping with Sidmouth,” said another.

Mr Slowe welcomed “mixed” feedback and said he wanted to work with residents to meet the “aspiration of the community”.

He said designs were at a very early stage and could change.

He vowed: “We are aware this is a prominent site and will listen and continue to listen as we go through this process.”

ZeroC signed a ‘subject to planning permission’ option with the site’s current owner on Christmas Eve.