Honiton Premier Inn blamed for historic hotel closure

  Posted: 12.09.20 at 12:40 by Joseph Bulmer and Daniel Clark

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A hotel on the edge of a main road near Honiton is set to close – with a combination of coronavirus and Premier Inn to blame.

Court Hall in Monkton, situated right on the edge of the A30, dates from the early 19th century and currently operates as a hotel/guesthouse.

But the family run country house hotel has seen its occupation has become limited over recent years with East Devon District Council’s planning committee hearing it had not been profitable for six years.

The applicant, councillor Colin Brown, who runs and currently lives within the hotel, had asked for permission to change the use of the building from a hotel/guest house to a single dwelling, and councillors backed the officer recommendation to approve the plans.

While Councillor Brown, who represents the Dunkeswell and Otterhead ward, is a member of the committee, he took no part in the debate as was removed for the Zoom meeting for its duration.

Putting forward the proposal, Matthew Dalton-Aram, speaking on behalf of councillor Brown, said that the holiday accommodation sector become competitive so it is hard to maintain profitability, with the hotel having not been in profit for six years and having only survived as they have invested their own money in the business.

He added: “The new Premier Inns in Honiton and Seaton have made it difficult for the boutique hotel market as they can offer cheaper accommodation, and it has been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, so they have chosen to close the guest house and cease operations.

“The site is unattractive for a commercial proposition, and it was historic Manor House of Monkton, so the proposal would revert back to its original use as a dwelling.”

Development manager Chris Rose, in his report to the committee, said that while the site is not considered to be in a sustainable location where future residents could easily access a range of services to meet their everyday need, as the applicants already live on site, there would be no increase in the number of residential units on site, nor any extra demands concerning sustainability.

He added that there are a range of larger chain hotels operating in the area as well as other boutique hotels and smaller guesthouses, and that due to the lack of interest for anyone wanting to take this on as a hotel, it wouldn’t result in loss of any employment.

Mr Rose recommended the scheme be approved, saying: “It is not considered that in this instance it would be reasonable to resist such loss.”

Councillor David Key, who also represents the Dunkeswell and Otterhead ward, proposed approval. He said: “I fully support the application as the usage as a bed and breakfast property has declined considerably and so can see no reason why this should not become a private house. Basically what killed this property was the new Premier Inn at Honiton as that knocked them very hard. I see no problem with this to revert to a private house.”

Councillor Philip Skinner said this reverting back to a house would makes no material change at all, while Councillor Olly Davey said that they are basically asking they can close down the guest house and occupy their own home, saying: “I don’t see any problem with this.”

Councillor Tony Woodward added: “I don’t see how we can force them to keep it open against their wishes.”

The committee by eight votes to four abstention to approve the plans, with some members choosing to abstain due to the close working relationship they have had with Councillor Brown.

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