At a meeting of Hastings Borough Council (HBC) planning committee on 23 February, the council approved its own application for permission to develop the car park at Cornwallis Street (above St Andrew’s Square) into an 84-bed hotel. The intended operator is Whitbread under its Premier Inn branding.

There were a number of significant objections to the planning application:

• The site was zoned for residential development on the Local Plan;

• All political parties on the council have been stressing that housing is the town’s number one priority;

• Over 30 local residents signed a petition of objection, many from the adjacent roads of Mann Street and St Andrew’s Square, who objected to loss of natural light to existing homes and the prospect of being overlooked by hotel bedrooms, also to the loss of parking. 

Cornwallis Street car park awaits developers
CREDIT: Hugh Sullivan

At the meeting several councillors criticised the lack of consultation with the local community, in particular ward councillor Judy Rogers, who called for a reduction in the height of the proposed building (at one end, five storeys).

However, she had no vote in the subsequent committee process. The council’s senior planning policy officer Tom Jackson argued that the development of a hotel on the site was “well aligned” to the regeneration proposals set out in the Town Deal and Town Investment Plan, providing a “step change” in the town centre that would come from “the positive economic impact of promoting overnight visitors and the associated spend”. 

For and against

Cllr Ruby Cox, who represents Central St Leonards, said she was “100%” in support of the application. The town was in “desperate need” of hotel places: there were less than 1,000 serviced bed spaces in Hastings compared to 7,000 in Eastbourne, 13,000 in Brighton and 23,000 in Bournemouth. “If we want people to come here and spend their money, we have to provide them with somewhere to stay.” Cllr Heather Bishop (Gensing ward) argued that the hotel might “mitigate the scourge” of air bnbs; Cllr Ali Roark (Tressell) agreed. 

On the other hand, Cllr Matthew Beaver (Maze Hill & West St Leonards) said that it had been folly not to have undertaken a proper consultation before the plans were finalised, and he argued that a preference for hotel rooms over permanent homes was absurd. “It’s been drummed into us by the leadership of the council that Hastings needs housing. There could be 20 families housed here. Houses are for 365 days a year, not just weekends.”

The application was put to a vote and approved 8-2.

Harold Place restaurant

At the next meeting of the planning committee on 23 March HBC will again be making its own application for a commercial development, this time for a two-storey restaurant to be constructed on the former toilet site in Harold Place in the town centre. There was controversy over the original decision to demolish the toilets four years ago, and sharp exchanges in council meetings since between the Labour party majority who have favoured the restaurant rebuild and the Conservative and Green party minority who don’t.

The main points of disagreement have arisen with regard to finance, as prospective construction costs have risen far above original estimates as a result of post-Covid/Brexit inflation and supply chain issues.  There has also been criticism of the business model and employment practices of the prospective operators, Loungers. Neither of these concerns are matters for the planning committee. However, one issue that they will have to resolve is the question of disability access to the upper floor. The plans propose a platform lift. Objectors argue that there is ample room for a proper passenger lift, and that failure to build one in will amount to disability discrimination.  

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