Cut red tape and turn struggling hotels into homes, urges Weston MP
By Prue_Reid | Friday, September 21, 2012, 09:51
Former tourism minister John Penrose has urged government to free up investment in UK hotels by allowing struggling businesses to convert to residential use without planning permission.
The weather has been against Weston tourism this season
The Weston-super-Mare MP wants red tape abolished to help struggling hotels to get planning permission to switch into residential or other uses for their properties.
If businesses are not making money – perhaps because they're no longer situated in the right part of town, or because the property cannot be kept up to date profitably – owners are unable to invest to improve them, he argues.
Equally, external investors are not interested either.
As a result businesses are forced to struggle on when their owners would prefer to give up and, because they are not able to invest, the quality and value for money they can afford to offer may be poor too.
Financially, the sector looks less attractive than it should for dynamic firms to invest in and an overhang of struggling firms can damage customer experiences and hurt the sector's image as a result, according to Penrose.
This week he pressed communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles in Parliament for a change in planning regulations.
Penrose said afterwards: "Having worked as tourism minister, I know planning red tape is holding the UK's wonderful, dynamic hotel sector back.
"This is a small change that could have a big impact. Many people in the hospitality sector would relish the extra flexibility and freedom it would bring.
"It would free up investment and clear the way for faster and more vigorous regeneration of high-quality, good-value hotel stock. It would be one of the quickest ways we could free up our hotel sector to compete better."
Weston-super-Mare Hotel and Restaurant Association chairman Keith Fearn who runs the The Monaco and The Midland hotels said he is unaware of the proposals put forward by Mr Penrose and therefore declined to comment.
Among the Weston-super-Mare guest houses and hotels currently for sale on a leading property website are the 50-bed seafront Smiths priced at more than £7 million, the nearby 17-bed seafront Mentone at nearly £3 million and an assortment of bed and breakfast properties starting at £250,000 upwards.