Hopeful developer’s £1million Sidmouth offer

PUBLISHED: 07:00 04 February 2011

FIRST LOOK: Early designs to re-develop Sidmouth's Fortfield Hotel site.

FIRST LOOK: Early designs to re-develop Sidmouth's Fortfield Hotel site.

ZeroC

HOPEFUL developers have offered £1million to boost Sidmouth tourism if they are allowed to transform the Fortfield Hotel into more than 40 residential apartments.

HOPEFUL developers have offered £1million to boost Sidmouth tourism if they are allowed to transform the Fortfield Hotel into more than 40 residential apartments.

Irked town tourism and business leaders told ZeroC bosses they wanted provision for holiday accommodation included in plans to demolish the derelict building and transform the site.

They argued that Sidmouth’s future as a tourism resort was at stake if a precedent was set at the Fortfield- and other hoteliers could be tempted by offers from developers.

The Fortifeld Hotel site is within Sidmouth’s designated tourism area.

ZeroC managing director, Kim Slowe, revealed planning authority East Devon District Council (EDDC) wants the mooted scheme to feature 16 holiday let apartments providing 93 beds.

However, the firm’s preference would be to make cash contributions toward holiday accommodation and affordable housing elements- and to have neither ‘on-site’.

Mr Slowe said the sum towards tourism alone would be around £1 million.

He added his firm had data indicating there was “not a demand” for another large hotel in Sidmouth and the previous business had become “unviable”.

Mr Slowe warned that unless the Fortfield was developed for residential use the town “will be looking at a very empty and derelict site for the next 15 years.”

Chairman of Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce, Richard Eley,said in response: “In my 35 years of experience.. I know no hotels that have closed because they haven’t been viable. They have only closed because developers have offered more money.

“Policy says that should remain as a site for tourism - not for a block of flats.

“I don’t accept this negative perception that Sidmouth is in permanent decline and hotels are going to close.

“You’re telling us about the viability of a hotel in our town. It’s never been offered for sale. It’s been deliberately left for this.”

Mark Seward, president of Sidmouth and District Hospitality Association, added: “The hotel was allowed to become unviable.

“It is a huge issue for the town…and for me and other hoteliers who might allow our businesses to become unviable and may allow you, as a developer, to make us an offer.”

Mr Slowe told townsfolk at the public exhibition his firm had “nothing to hide”.

He added: “We’ve had mixed views. There are strong feelings and a lot of history which need to be addressed.”

He vowed to speak to businesses and Sidmouth Town Council.


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