Sidmouth hotelier warns of threat to hotel beds

Sidmouth hoteliers potentially face the most serious threat to the volume of hotel bedrooms in recent history

SIDMOUTH hoteliers potentially face the most serious threat to the volume of hotel bedrooms in recent history.

Mark Seward, retiring president of Sidmouth and District Hospitality Association, declared this at the association’s annual meeting on Tuesday, saying he “firmly believed” this because of the threat to the tourism planning policy element now being faced at the Fortfield Hotel site, which could set a dangerous precedent if lost.

“East Devon planners have, for many years, protected the tourism heart of Sidmouth with a specific policy to ensure properties are not sold off to developers,” he said.

“I have heard the word ‘sacrosanct’ used in the past. This came about as a reaction to the considerable reduction in businesses from the late 1960’s.”

He said the Fortfield Hotel was one of the finest historic hotels sitting within the boundary of that policy area.

“We will soon see whether pressure on the planners and clever manipulation of the policy wording, including ‘viability’ will permit the building of predominantly residential dwellings.”

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He said “lip-service” was being paid to holiday accommodation with a few flats at the rear of the building with no sea view, and said how hard, as seafront hoteliers, it was to rent rooms that didn’t face the sea.

“I put it to association members and the townsfolk of Sidmouth that if planners yield on this site, that others will follow.

“It will be interesting to see how they could stop a seafront hotelier from allowing their business to fall into gradual disrepair, followed by closure, boarding up and squatters.

“The final piece of the lucrative jigsaw would see a wealthy developer, and a barrister specialising in proving lack of ‘viability’. Only time will tell.”

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