Council is accused of stifling B&B industry

Barbie Main, Laurence Bell and Trevor Goodwin
Barbie Main, Laurence Bell and Trevor Goodwin

GUESTHOUSE and hotel owners have accused council bosses of stifling the town’s bed and breakfast industry.

Members of Hastings and St Leonards Hotels and Tourism Association said the authority was “talking nonsense” when saying last week there were only 1,000 beds in town.

Last week Hastings Borough Council said it wanted to stem the decline in tourist accommodation by asking owners to provide more detailed evidence if they want to convert their hotel into another type of business or residential accommodation.

Owners must prove that the building is no longer suitable as a hotel and show detailed running costs.

But Barbie Main, vice-chairman of the town’s hotels association and owner of the Millifont Guesthouse in Cambridge Gardens, said some owners felt “completely tied” by this policy.

She said: “It is creating a very high level of stress as they feel they don’t have a choice if they want to move.

“The council’s policy is complete numpty. I should be allowed to sell my guesthouse as a private dwelling, not to be forced to work until I drop. I have had two major back operations in the last year.

“The council keeps saying there is only 1,000 beds in town but this does not include places like Shearbarn and Combe Haven. It is completely unrealistic and absolute nonsense that there’s a B&B drought.”

Trevor Goodwin, the association’s treasurer, said: “If you are coming up to retirement and want to invest your capital in your home to turn it into a B&B this policy creates a huge disincentive.

“It makes it difficult to change back if things do not work out.”

Laurence Bell, the association’s spokesman, said because of this the council’s policy was “stagnating” the market and “going against simple A-level economics”.

A report by Tim Cookson, the authority’s borough planning officer, which was presented at last Monday’s meeting, said that in 2008 more than 395,000 visitors stayed overnight in Hastings and spent more than £70 million.

But Mr Cookson’s said the town only had 1,000 beds for visitors, not all of a good quality, compared to 8,000 in 1951.

Kevin Boorman, the authority’s marketing manager, was adamant the council’s stance was correct.

He said: “The whole point is that we need more good quality visitor accommodation.

“We have lost more than 85 per cent of beds over the last 50 years.

“We cannot afford to lose any more accommodation and we need as many staying visitors as possible to spend as much money as possible.

“If we did not have a policy like this more hotels and guesthouses will close.”

He also said the move was an attempt to stop outside developers profiteering from turning former guesthouses into flats.