Some of the most established hotel owners in Bath have taken a stand to object to plans for a new hotel to be built in the city.
More than 150 business owners and residents, with hoteliers including Ian Taylor, owner of the Kaleidoscope Collection, Andrew Brownsword, chairman of Andrew Brownsword Hotels and Ken Arkley, commercial director, Hand Picked Hotels – Bailbrook House among others, have signed a joint letter of objection to turn Bath College’s Allen Building into a 206-bed hotel.
The hotel would be the third on James Street West, with plans submitted by family-run development firm Dominvs, predominately linked to operators such as Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza.
Along with the bedrooms, the redevelopment scheme includes plans for a café, restaurants and bar – along with a gym.
The objection letter to the proposed hotel has received hundreds of comments online, with business owners concerned that small hotels and B&Bs will be forced out of business.
A dozen Bath hoteliers and restaurant owners have also written a joint letter of objection.
According to the letter sent to Bath and North East Somerset Council’s principal planning officer, the plans “do not meet the requirements of Bath at the given time” and would cause “significant detriment to the Tourism and Hospitality offer within Bath”.
In July 2014, the council brought in a plan recommending 500 to 700 new hotel bedrooms were built by 2029 – but the group argue this target has already been met.
They say 787 new bedrooms have been built since 2014, and that this number does not take into consideration the 800 or so AirBnB rooms that were available last year.
The letter continues to argue the new James Street West hotel would be “detrimental to the environment” as it would attract more vehicles to the city.
The letter reads: “It is difficult enough for staying visitors to find suitable parking, but the situation will be exacerbated by such a large hotel at a time when future reductions in the number of parking spaces at Avon Street car park are made.”
The final reason for objecting is that there is a ‘chronic’ staff shortage in the tourism and leisure industry, which is greater in Bath than other parts of the UK because high housing and transport costs are a ‘constraint on the available labour force’.
The hoteliers and restaurant owners say businesses in Bath are struggling to recruit and keep employees – meaning some restaurants are unable to fully open. If the plans are given the go-ahead, they argue, it would “jeopardise the economic viability” of many hotels and restaurants, particularly small businesses.
In response to the letter of objection, a spokeswoman for B&NES Council said: “Representations made in relation to the application will be considered as part of the planning process, however, the council cannot make comments on live planning applications prior to a determination being made.”
The online objection letter has been signed by:
Andrew Brownsword, chairman of Andrew Brownsword Hotels; Colin Skellet, YTL Hotels; David James, chief executive of Bath Independent Guest House Association; Jon Overton, chairman of Bath Restaurant Association; Lionel Benjamin, director of Topland Ground of Companies, Royal Crescent Hotel; Laurence Beere, managing director of The Queensberry Hotel and Olive Tree Restaurant; Ken Arkley, commercial director, Hand Picked Hotels – Bailbrook House; Peter Rollins, director of marketing at Thermae Bath Spa; Ian Taylor and Jonathan Walker, Kaleidoscope Collection; Simon Austin, general manager of St James Hotel, Hotel Indigo Bath, and Christopher Cameron, owner of Dukes Hotel.