Fortfield re-build must have tourism element

Sidmouth hoteliers express need for tourism element in re-development of Fortfield Hotel site

ANY redevelopment of the Fortfield Hotel site must include a tourism element or there will be objections from Sidmouth’s other tourism providers.

The warning comes this week from Mark Seward, president of Sidmouth and District Hospitality Association.

He said: “It is within the tourism designated area, you can’t just put up flats and apartments.

“This is the key issue. It is nothing to do with what they look like but they have got to be related towards tourism.

“If East Devon District Council allows flats, what is to stop any other hotelier letting their premises become dilapidated and get in such a terrible state?”

He said the matter was a ‘huge issue’ because if district planners allowed residential units not for tourism, there would be nothing to stop other hotels being turned into residential flats.

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Mr Seward said he had been asked how the association felt about the Fortfield closing.

“It is a big blow to the economy because the more hotels we lose the less credibility we have as a town for tourism. We don’t want to lose more bed spaces to residential.

“I am desperate to see something done with it. The association is deeply concerned, like everyone else, about the terrible state and eyesore, but the hotel falls within a planning policy area which dictates it has to be linked to tourism.

“Many of us believe that the hotel could have been running today and be good competition.

“We are duty bound to object to anything that replaces the site that doesn’t have appropriate tourism related activity.”

Kim Slowe, MD of Poundbury, Dorchester, based developer Zero C, which has an option to buy the Fortfield site subject to planning consent, said ongoing discussions were taking place with EDDC over the potential ‘loss’ of a hotel to Sidmouth.

“The hotel died because it was not commercially viable, there’s no point replacing it,” he said.

“We have been advised by everybody there is enough hotel accommodation. There may be a shortage of other holiday accommodation and discussions are on-going on how we can help with that in our scheme.

“We are giving proper regard to the council’s policies on hotel accommodation retention and affordable housing. All options are being explored to get the right balance.”

He said talks over an ‘off-site’ community cash contribution, known as a section 106 agreement, were also on-going.

“There is likely to be a tourism element, we know what the policies are. There is always more than one way to crack a nut,” added Mr Slowe.

An EDDC spokesman confirmed the site was “within the Principal Holiday Accommodation area”, but added: “The change of use or redevelopment of hotels and other forms of holiday accommodation to non-tourism accommodation uses will not be permitted unless there is no physical or economic potential for continued tourist use.”

He said previous applications for the site were refused because of the scale and design of the replacement buildings.