Premier’s plans raise fears about parking and heritage

Premier Inn Tunbridge Wells

Residents and business leaders are challenging plans to build the Premier Inn.

More than 80 objections to developing the former County Court on London Road have been lodged with Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.

Complaints centre around a lack of suitable parking and heritage issues on such a highly visible and historic site.

The planning application will go before a council committee next week (March 8).

Among the objectors is Simon McArdle, MD of Tunbridge Wells Media Centre who carried out a survey of local hoteliers after finding fault with the parking proposals.

“Drawing on my experience in the sector and recent work specifically with hotel groups, the Premier Inn appear to have significantly misjudged the number of people who would travel by car to stay at the hotel,” he has told the council.Premier Inn Tunbridge Wells Artists View

Premier Inn is set to provide 110 rooms with the provision of 19 parking bays. The company claims that only a small percentage of clients will arrive by car.

According to Mr McArdle, the GB Tourist Statistics 2014 show that 78.6 per cent of those taking a short holiday of one to three nights used a car.

He added: “Findings from a recent survey amongst Tunbridge Wells hotels delivered similar findings; the vast majority of those staying overnight would travel by car.”

“Tunbridge Wells deserves something that is right”

The hotel has also claimed that guests will arrive during the evening and leave in the morning and therefore they would not clog up the local car parks before local workers and commuters arrive.

But the local survey revealed that 85 per cent of guests check in before 6pm, meaning the majority arrive when car parks are still occupied by workers, and that more than half of guests will stay the next day.

In addition, the existing 16 or so parking spaces on Clarence Road are set to be lost. These are currently used by office workers.

Mr McArdle concluded: “Premier Inn have ether misunderstood the town’s visitor profile or are intentionally downplaying the number of car parking spaces needed.”

The new building, between two listed properties, would be based on the original construction at the site, the Victorian style Tweedale Terrace.

This was greeted with some enthusiasm initially but it has since been noted that Premier’s version is considerably wider, using up the whole plot, and will have an extra storey attached to provide a fifth floor.

Conservation specialist Eddie Booth has commented: “Tunbridge Wells deserves something that is right, especially since this will be such a visible building, flanked by listed buildings, in a conservation area and opposite the common.

“It is not, therefore, a precedent to justify a much higher, wider and more monolithic building like the Premier Inn are proposing”.

Allan Goodwin, who lives in neighbouring Clarence Lodge, has said: “The applicant cutely shows a picture of the previous building to fill the site, cute in that the picture is designed to hide the fact that the old building had the smaller footprint that we are asking for.

“I was shocked to see how much bigger the proposed building would be in comparison to Merevale House [the county court]. As someone who lives next door to the site I would welcome something the size of Tweedale Terrace and think it would enhance the area, which has been identified as an area for change.”

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