A Premier Inn for Kingsbridge? Join the Conversation
Latest News, 19th October
Here is South Hams Society’s request to the Leader of the South Hams District Council, Judy Pearce, Council Officer Chris Brook and all SHDC Councilors asking for environmental and economic information to be made available to Kingbridge residents and the wider community of the South Hams.
Here is the SHDC Kingsbridge Quayside Development Study
South Hams District Council are inviting the community of Kingsbridge, and the surrounding communities to sign up now with their email address, so that they can be kept informed of all of the consultation milestones and receive alerts when it goes live.
Cllr Judy Pearce, Leader of South Hams District Council said: “The Council supports the approach of an open conversation with the community. Before any plans are submitted to us as the Planning Authority, we want to hear from all sections of the community so that their response can guide the plans that are submitted. We know from experience that formal planning consultations on a specific plan can limit the responses that are given because responses to applications have to relate in a specific way to planning. We have also seen that artist impressions can raise concerns about how something might look, and the principal of a development gets lost. Therefore we want this conversation to focus on the principle of building a Premier Inn in Kingsbridge, rather than the specifics of the building design.”
South Hams District Council is inviting, residents, businesses, visitors and surrounding communities to provide their email addresses now, to make sure that they are involved in that conversation from the beginning.
Chris Brook, South Hams District Council’s Director for Place and Enterprise said: “Let me start the conversation by telling you the story so far. South Hams District Council owns a piece of land at Rope Walk in Kingsbridge that is currently derelict. The building on it is unused and in a poor state of repair. The Council would like to use this land for the benefit of Kingsbridge and the South Hams. In line with the policies of our commercial strategy, we want to use this site to create jobs and apprenticeships, bring business to town, improve tourism and create some money to help the Council pay for services.
“Premier Inn then entered the discussion and told us that they would like to work with us by running an 85-bed hotel on the site at a cost of £10m from the Council and a further £10 m from Premier Inn. They have said that this could create the equivalent of 90 full-time jobs during the build and 24 when the hotel is up and running. They also said that they could bring an extra 700 visitors to the town every week and an extra £525,000 could be spent in the town ever year.”
Together with the Town Council, South Hams District would now like to invite the residents, businesses and surrounding communities of Kingsbridge to join this conversation and tell them what they think of this idea.
Specific dates and details of when, and where, you can join that conversation will be coming out shortly. In the meantime, those interested are being invited to sign up for email alerts so that they are kept informed.
Issued: 27 September 2019
Letters to the Kingsbridge and Salcombe Gazette – Friday, October 11th
From Sarah Linton, East Portlemouth
Public needs all hotel site ’intel’
The proposed Premier Inn represents public land being exchanged for public debt. The leader of South Hams District Council Judy Pearce has announced that, while she supports the approach of an open conversation with the community, she wants the conversation to focus on the principle of building a Premier Inn in Kingsbridge. With respect, the conversation needs to start from a different place. What the local taxpayers and residents of Kingsbridge are entitled to know first of all is how we got to the Premier Inn proposal. A prime site at Ropewalk in Kingsbridge, which is publicly owned, has been vacant for a number of years.
What other proposals were explored for this site and how did the Premier Inn proposal come about? Why is a Premier Inn the only option on the table? Where is the detailed study setting out the overwhelming economic, environmental and social case for a Premier Inn? Where is the business analysis to show that building a low-budget hotel represents the best return on borrowed money compared with any other possible land use? How can we proceed to a public consultation without this information?
Council officer Chris Brook has posted a statement about the project to the SHDC website, for the first time, in which he states that Premier Inn would like to “work with us by running an 85-bed hotel on the site at a cost of £10m from the council and a further £10m from Premier Inn. This could create the equivalent of 90 full-time jobs during the build and 24 when the hotel is up and running. They could [bring] an extra 799 visitors to the town every week and an extra £525,000 could be spent in the town every year.”
So how do the financial arrangements work? It seems that a loan of £10 m will be taken out on behalf of local taxpayers from the Public Works Loan Board to build a budget hotel that will be leased to Premier Inn. What does Premier Inn get in return for the £10 m it is putting in? What happens to the building at the end of the 25-year lease? Who bears the risk in this project? What are the rewards in best-case and worst-case scenarios, including in a recession? And why should money borrowed from the Public Works Loan Board be used to build a Premier Inn, which is clearly not a public work? If £10 m is available from the fund, why has SHDC not considered using such a loan to build genuinely affordable housing that will bring in a guaranteed income?
So after 90 builders have worked on the build, just 24 low-paid, low-security, mainly cleaning jobs will be created, assuming the hotel has a high occupancy rate. Does Mr. Brook really believe that the 85 rooms will bring 799 visitors to Kingsbridge every week? Where are these visitors and staff to park? Apparently, the 799 weekly visitors will spend £525,000 a year.
I don’t believe the figures for one minute, but if they are realistic, then the impact in terms of extra cars would be significant. Based on Mr. Brook’s figures, there would be a weekly spend on the streets of Kingsbridge of just over £12 a week from each Premier Inn guest — assuming this money is not spent in Premier Inn’s own bar and restaurant. Do we want some 400 extra cars each week on this basis? 799 guests a week… seriously? These are Trumpian alternative facts that Mr. Brook surely does not believe in. Indeed, it is hard to understand why those Councilors who support the Premier Inn project are so keen on it. Premier Inn, Subway and (until recently) Costa Coffee are all Whitbread-owned. Perhaps there’s a clue there.
Finally, what about the climate emergency that has been declared by SHDC and “the aim of decarbonising Devon in the shortest timeframe possible”? (Cllr Judy Pearce, June 2019). What environmental terms have been discussed with Premier Inn? Has the environmental impact been considered at all? I urge Cllrs Pearce and others to do the decent thing in the consultation exercise and ask local residents first of all what they would like to see on the site. Then, before proposing the Premier Inn, please set out the full facts, researched objectively and without spin, so that we, the ultimate shareholders, can make the right, informed decision.