Council moves to tackle B&B drought

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GUESTHOUSE owners will have to prove their business is failing if they want to convert their property into flats as the council moves to prop up the town’s falling hotel stock.

Hastings Borough Council wants to stem the decline in tourist accommodation and says more detailed evidence will be needed from owners wishing to convert their hotel into another type of business or residential accommodation.

Kevin Boorman, council spokesman, said the move is an attempt to stop outside developers profiteering from turning former guest houses into flats.

Owners will now have to prove that the building is no longer suitable as a hotel and show detailed running costs.

A report by Tim Cookson, the authority’s borough planning officer, was presented to councillors at a meeting on Monday.

It showed that in 2008 more than 395,000 visitors stayed overnight in Hastings and spent more than £70 million.

There were almost three million daytrippers, spending £80 million throughout the same year

Mr Cookson said: “The tourist industry is an important component of the economy in Hastings. Tourism contributes £211 million to the local economy and supports an estimated 4,850 jobs.

“The tourism sector as a whole has stagnated in terms of the number of visitors staying overnight, and there is a lack of quality visitor accommodation.”

Hastings only has 1,000 beds for visitors, not all of a good quality, compared to 8,000 in 1951.

In his report Mr Cookson said the overall aim was to encourage more people to stay overnight when visiting Hastings.

He said: “The provision of new visitor attractions, such as the Jerwood Gallery, can provide the incentive towards achieving this aim.”

Councillor Peter Chowney, lead member for regeneration and planning, said: “Tourist accommodation has certainly been declining over the years and we have far less beds compared to Eastbourne, Brighton and Bournemouth, which have as many as 20,000.

“We need more bed spaces to boost the economy and get tourism going.

“During the property boom it was more profitable to turn hotels and guest houses into flats.”