The derelict ice rink in Queen Square in Brighton city centre, which has been empty for nearly eight years, is to be the site of a new six storey Apart-Hotel with 60 self-catering apartments and a restaurant.
Light Boutique, which has a similar operation in Manchester, have secured the site and a full planning application is expected before July with construction work expected to take about two years.
Officials say the new development in Queen Square will help to regenerate the area and bring life to the city centre just north of the Clock Tower. The council says a new hotel concept will extend the range of accommodation on offer in the city.
The Light Boutique ApartHotel combines the service of a boutique hotel with the convenience of staying in an apartment.
Many of the small hoteliers who have been struggling to keep occupancy up over recent years may see this development as an unwelcome addition to the city.
However, Roger Marlowe, hotelier and one of the city's leading lights in the hospitality sector, can see the opportunity behind the threat. “I have always said if someone wants to invest millions in a hotel then presumably they have done their market research, know there is capacity, and should be able to freely go ahead.
“I have also argued that a new hotel with new ideas will keep all its competitors on their toes.”
However, Roger is concerned that the infrastructure of the city is limiting and there needs to be a constant effort to make it more accessible. The Hotel Association has some statistics that show that as the number of rooms available in Brighton & Hove has increased so much over the past few years that the average occupancy and revenue per room across all the hotels has dropped.
Roger adds, “I guess that another major hotel will add to the dilution and lead to poorer hotels all round. “There is (I suppose) a limit to the number of people who can arrive in Brighton. Full trains and roads at weekends seem to show this. Will a new hotel benefit the City?
“Personally the only hotel I would value is one with guaranteed five stars. It would be unique and attract the best paying guests.”
In terms of what is best for the city Roger is not alone in his view that a major department store is what is really missing. He concludes, “My choice for the ice rink site would be a John Lewis.”
The council's planning department will consult formally with residents and local interest groups as part of the planning process prior to consideration by the planning committee.
A previous plan for the site which went to planning committee in 2004 involved the construction of 24 flats [see earlier story]
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