Dales hotel apartment scheme rejected over fears for tourism

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THE owners of a family-run North Yorkshire hotel have been told that they cannot have permission to convert the Grade II listed property into 10 upmarket apartments.

Councillors have rejected plans to convert the Falcon Manor Hotel in Settle on the ground that its closure would damage the local economy and affect tourism.

Craven Council officers claimed that the owners have not done enough to market the business for sale as a going concern – a claim rejected by hotel bosses.

The company which owns the hotel, Remouecode Ltd, applied for permission to turn the hotel into 10 residential units with a mix of one to four bedrooms. But council officers urged councillors to reject the plans.

A report quoted the authority’s economic development department which argued that Settle could not afford to lose further bed space.

“There is a year round demand for tourist accommodation in the vicinity with demand between June and September generally exceeding availability,” according to the department’s report.

It adds: “Over the past 12 years there has been a fall of 61 serviced rooms in the area through the closure of properties offering accommodation. The Falcon Manor is the only classified hotel within the vicinity.”

The further loss of bed space and hotel facilities would have an adverse effect on the quality of tourism in the Settle and north Craven area, the economic development department told councillors.

The department concluded that “the Falcon Manor still has the potential to be a viable hotel business. The property has the ability to offer quality accommodation, function rooms, restaurant and bar, all of which are in demand in Settle.”

Three letters objecting to the plans were sent to the council.

One critic said: “The building is the only major hotel in Settle and is the only structure that could realistically be used for a large hotel.”

Another comment said: “The loss of the hotel would decrease the number of affluent visitors to Settle and would have an adverse impact on the rural economy.”

Objectors said the building would be suited to a “high-quality boutique hotel”.

The owners told the council that the business had fallen on “hard times” in recent years and that inquiries had been made with a view to the sale of the business but commercial agents did not consider there was a good prospect of it selling.

But council officers said not enough evidence had been produced to back up the claim that the business had been marketed for sale.

A council report concluded that “it is not considered that the applicants have made a realistic attempt to sell the property for hotel use”.

The report said: “The applicant has not established in the information provided that there is no reasonable prospect of the site being continued to be used as a hotel. However, information from the council’s economic development department suggests that there should be demand for this continued use.”

Councillors on the planning committee supported their officers’ opinion at a meeting earlier this week by rejecting the application.

They ruled that the conversion plan would be contrary to national planning policy due to the potential adverse impact on the economic base of the area.

Councillors agreed that it had not been demonstrated that the hotel has been marketed “to an adequate degree for sale as a going concern” and its closure would cause the loss of both jobs and bed spaces.

Following the meeting, the hotel’s managing director Philip Atherton said the company would be considering an appeal.

He told the Yorkshire Post that the council had been given “copious amounts of information” but had been “messing us around for about 12 months”.

Mr Atherton, 57, said the hotel had been hit by the recession and recruitment problems.

He added: “At the end of the day I have a number of health issues and I need to move on.”