Fears for ‘fragile’ town centre may lead to hotel plan rejection

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PLANS to build an three-star hotel and pub in Rotherham, which would create about 60 new jobs, are set to be turned down by councillors because of fears that the development could impact on an already “fragile” town centre.

Premier Inn first submitted plans for the hotel last year, but withdrew them after town planners asked the company to consider other more central locations.

Now the proposals, for a site off Phoenix Riverside in Sheffield Road, Templeborough, have been resubmitted and are set to be determined at a meeting of Rotherham Council’s planning board on Thursday, March 15.

The company wants to build a three-storey hotel with 80 bedrooms and an adjoining two- storey Brewers Fayre pub, with a children’s play area and landscaping.

If planning permission is granted, Premier Inn would develop the hotel in two phases - first building 60 bedrooms and then potentially extending it to 80.

The pub would be to the east of the site and the hotel would sit parallel to the River Don, with car parking in between.

In its application, the company says Whitbread has “moved from being a brewer and an owner of pubs, to being the largest hotelier in the UK through its Premier Inn brand.”

The application adds: “The company no longer builds stand-alone pubs or restaurants, it only builds them alongside Premier Inn hotels, with the intention of providing meals and refreshments for guests and for wider custom.”

The development, the application states, is designed to cater for a “range of travellers, including business people, leisure and family visitors.”

It adds that the hotel would develop a site with “no immediate prospects of development” and lead to economic growth.

However, town planners in Rotherham say that, while the hotel would not have an “adverse effect on the character of the area, which is commercial in nature”, more suitable locations exist within the town centre.

In the town planners’ report, which is set to go before next Thursday’s committee meeting, they say: “Whilst it is noted that the proposal may provide employment, and promote tourism, the local planning authority is concerned that this would be at the cost of the town centre.

“Any new hotel and restaurant development should be within the town centre, and not in an out-of-centre location.

“Rotherham town centre’s economy is fragile and suffers from an immense amount of out-of-centre retail and leisure competition in the form of Meadowhall and Parkgate.”

“Whilst the applicant states that visitors to the hotel would go into the town centre, there is concern that visitors may chose to go in their cars to other nearby destinations without visiting the centre.”

Town planners also asked Premier Inn to consider a further six sites that were “preferable”, including the former Guest and Chrimes site.

However, the company said that site is “not suitable for their hotel model.”

Advising councillors to refuse planning consent at next week’s meeting, the planning officials say: “It is considered that there are two sites that are sequentially preferable to the application site, the Weirside site in the town centre, and the former Guest and Chrimes site on the edge of the town centre.

“It is also considered that the proposal could have an adverse impact on the vitality and viability of Rotherham town centre.

“It is acknowledged that the proposal would provide direct and indirect employment opportunities and would improve the visual appearance of the existing site.

“However, these considerations are not considered sufficient to override the government’s policies that aim to locate such development proposals within town centres.”