Parking fears on hotel plan

Thursday 6th October 2016 10:01 pm
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Richard Howell, of North Huish, South Brent, writes:

Few were surprised when our elected representatives on the development management committee of South Hams Council chose to disregard the concerns of such authorities as Natural England, the National Trust and the South Devon AONB Office.

In commenting on the proposed redevelopment of the Tides Reach Hotel, the AONB office had made clear: ‘the mass, bulk, design and prominent location of the proposed buildings constitutes an over-development of the site’, pointing out ‘the proposals fail to respect the built character of the area’ and concluding ‘the proposal does nothing to conserve or enhance this landscape or scenic beauty.’

‘The Trust,’ agreed the National Trust, ‘shares the concerns of Natural England and the South Devon AONB office over the amount of development being proposed and the likely impact on the AONB as a result.’

Of course, it is not the first time our councillors have overridden the advice of such statutory consultees. 

And, where the AONB is concerned, it is highly unlikely to prove the last.

Even so, the revised plans for a 44-bedroom hotel combined with 10 residential apartments, approved by a majority of six votes to five last Thursday, do appear visually less intrusive than a previous proposal for a 51-bedroom hotel agreed last year.

And, notwithstanding the impact the development will have on its setting, many will argue it will be an improvement on the site as it currently stands.

Of greater concern is whether the development will actually prove capable of delivering the economic and employment benefits that have been promised, or whether it may be destined to fail.

Key to this is the question of car parking.

For example, the developers claim 60 jobs will be created by ‘the operation of the hotel, spa and restaurant.’ Yet no staff car parking spaces are to be provided.

Commenting on this, Councillor Rosemary Rowe eloquently articulated the concern and consideration for workers’ welfare that Theresa May once feared the Conservative Party was famous.

‘Staff could get on their bikes,’ she suggested.

No doubt those working split shifts, particularly in the depths of winter, will really appreciate her advice as they struggle through the winds and rain.

Similarly, following consultation with the Highways Authority, the developers were told to provide one parking space for each hotel bedroom, and two spaces for each of the two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments.

Instead, with five two-bed, four three-bed and one four-bed penthouse residential apartments planned, councillors are only requiring one parking space for each. By any measure, this is certain to prove inadequate.

That said, there are 46 car parking spaces provided for the 44 hotel bedrooms, as well as five pay and display places for the general public.

Unfortunately many guests look like being faced with an uncovered walk of 25 yards or more to the hotel entrance from where their car is parked, across a lake, fully exposed to the elements.

Such a layout will do little to help boost out-of-season bookings or encourage those organising dinner-dances or other events.

‘This scheme,’ said council planners, ‘is an opportunity to provide a tourist asset with a significant and long term economic impact within the designated landscape.’

But, with no public car parks nearby, it is difficult to envisage how Tides Reach can hope to satisfy the needs of those occupying the 10 residential apartments or anybody who might wish to visit them, let alone those working there. By failing to fully address the inadequacy of the planned parking arrangements, should the hotel fail, councillors may find that rather than a tourist asset, they have simply facilitated the eventual development of a large block of overpriced flats, occupied by rich retirees, in a designated area of outstanding natural beauty.

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