PLANNING permission to convert a seafront hotel into flats has been approved – much to the dismay of some councillors.
Arun District Council’s development control committee waved plans for the Royal Hotel, in The Esplanade, through on Wednesday.
Surveyors and council officers had supported the view the hotel was no longer commercially viable - but some councillors were sceptical and believed a new operator could turn its fortunes round.
Councillor Elaine Stainton said: “It’s in a beautiful location. It is a fantastic venue. We are not going to have anything left.
“To turn this into flats is an absolute tragedy. It really should be kept as a venue.”
The committee heard from surveyor Barry Voysey, whose report on the hotel’s viability detailed a required investment of £1.5million to re-open the building as a hotel.
He listed a series of faults, including the lack of parking, external customer area, historically poor trade and the fact 10 flats on the first floor had already split the commercial part of the hotel.
Councillor Pat Dillon, who usually sits on the commmittee, left his seat and sat in the public gallery for the item, speaking on behalf of the town council.
He said: “Economically we want to keep it as a hotel and believe the hotel has not had the best of reputation in the way it has been run in the past and we feel there has definitely got to be somebody out there that can bring it back to its former glory.”
Mr Dillon argued the development was contrary to the emerging Bognor neighbourhood plan as it did not provide car parking or promote tourism.
Officers said the hotel was in a sustainable location and stated the tourism policy did not restrict the loss of existing hotels but supported the development of new and existing facilities.
Cabinet member for planning and infrastructure Ricky Bower said he had heard no planning reason to reject the application. The plans were approved, with three against and one abstaining.