Plans to turn an hotel into a care home have won support from Aldwick parish councillors, despite objections.
Planning committee members voted 3-2 to tell Arun District Council they were happy with the proposal for the Russell Hotel by the charity, Livability. Their decision led to jeers and complaints of a ‘whitewash’ from some 30 campaigners present at Monday’s meeting.
But committee chairman Cllr Michael Warden told them: “We have to make a planning decision based on the facts. We have to go by what is in the planning rule book. If the proposal had contravened any of the planning guidelines, we could have objected.”
Cllr Dr Tony Poland, a committee member, said the decision was a difficult balancing act. Closing it would deny blind people the chance to enjoy a holiday in the area.
“I would like to keep the hotel as a place at which blind people are welcome,” he said. But fellow committee member Stella Coppard said: “It has been put up for sale because it’s not viable.”
The committee’s decision will go to Arun District Council to consider when it makes the final decision on the plan for the King’s Parade premises.
Livability wants to swap its current Victorian accommodation at Ashley House for 15 physically disabled adults with the facilities at the nearby hotel run by another charity, Action for Blind People, which built it in 2003.
Trudy Lockyer, Ashley House’s manager, said: “Ashley House is no longer fit for our purpose. It does not provide the quality of living accommodation that people deserve. If our plan is successful, it will transform the lives of many disabled people living in Bognor and others who might come into the area.”
Livability was committed to keeping the hotel’s popular swimming pool open to the public if it took on the building, she pledged.
Livability wants to use the hotel, if it gains approval, as a community hub to provide resources for disabled people in the area. Failure to move could see Ashley House closed with 30 jobs lost.
But protestor Diana Mercer said Bognor could not afford to lose an hotel which brought visitors to the town.
“The swimming pool is invaluable for exercise and therapy for guests and local residents because it’s easily accessible and one depth. It’s recommended by Bognor hospital and GPs locally.”
Nearby resident Eileen Anderson, a Bognor town councillor, said: “We really do feel we need to keep this hotel. Everybody round about wants the hotel. Lots of people use the swimming pool and the catering facilities, which are first class.”