The Economic Partnership has asked the City Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee to look at the implications of the sale of a leasehold interest of the derelict farm site on the outskirts to a hotel developer.
The decision to sell a long lease to De Vere Village Hotels [see earlier story] contravenes a range of strategies and calls into question the strategic use of land.
De Vere Village Hotels proposes to build a 128 bed four star hotel, which will also provide conferencing, banqueting and community facilities, a restaurant, bar and Starbucks café, together with a health and fitness centre with swimming pool, spa, sauna and gym. The company also proposes to incorporate 455 square metres of offices on the site.
The council received eight separate bids for Patcham Court Farm with proposed uses including schemes for offices, hotel and office and warehousing. Bidders were assessed on a number of criteria, including their track record, offer price for the lease, added value, timing, quality and ability to deliver large projects.
The cabinet paper of 17th February states: “While [the] bid does not comply with Local Plan policy there are sufficient material considerations for them to pursue a planning application for their proposal. Their scheme would provide for a range of local employment needs, along with many additional benefits to the local community, with the hotel’s facilities including a leisure centre, restaurant and bar. They have sufficient information to proceed with the long lease and would be able to complete a Development Agreement with 6 weeks of Cabinet approval. The Development Agreement would allow them to apply for planning permission at their cost. When planning consent has been obtained a long lease of 125 years would be granted at the agreed premium.”
Until the emerging Core Strategy has undergone Examination in Public [EiP] the adopted Local Plan form the planning framework for developments in the city.
Section 5 of the city council’s Local Plan [Supporting the Local Economy and getting people into work] “identifies sites close to the universities, or readily accessible from them, for high-tech offices and businesses incubator units to support the concept of the “Academic Corridor”[5.21]. It is intended that such sites will provide accommodation for new businesses to establish themselves and grow, as well as attract new high-tech businesses from further afield with links to the universities or using graduate expertise” These sites are classified as EM2 sites.
Patcham Court Farm is identified as an EM2 site specifically allocated for “High-tech business uses and offices” and the applicant would need to demonstrate that the employment likely to be generated is of sufficient quality and quantum to justify the departure from the sites allocated use.
Policy SR17 of the Local Plan states that “new hotel and tourism accommodation will be permitted within the identified core area....” and goes on to say that “Unless it has been identified in this Plan, outside the core area planning permission will not be granted for new accommodation unless it has been demonstrated that no suitable site can be identified firstly within the town centre; of secondly on the edge of the town centre and it has good public transport access to the town centre and tourist attractions”
The Local Plan “core area” remains ill-defined although the Hotel Futures Study proposes a core area thatnis clearly focused on the city centre . The Study goes on to say that “the boundary of the proposed core area has been identified to ensure that accommodation is close to main public transport links and the main visitor attractions in the interests of promoting sustainable tourism in line with the Local Transport Plan [LTP]”
Supporting the LTP, Local Plan policy SR17 [6.75] states “Significant new developments will be required to demonstrate that they will be located such that guests will have a sufficient choice of transport so that they will not be reliant on their car to either reach their accommodation or to access the visitor attraction
Given the dire shortage of brownfield and other development land in the city the allocation of this site on the A23/A27 junction to hotel use raises a number of questions.
- Will the hotel benefit the wider city economy?
- Will the jobs created be largely low-paid entry level positions and is that wht the city needs?
- Is this the best strategic use of the land and could selling to other bidders have delivered a better result for the long-term future of the city?
- Are there other sites earmarked for uses outside the Local Plan that could be allocated more strategically?
Read related items on:
Hotel Futures Study
Local Development Framework
Local Transport Plan
Patcham Court Farm