Struggling hotel owners could be given more freedom to cash in and transform their properties into homes under new plans.

Brighton and Hove City Council are considering loosening restrictions that stop hotel owners from changing their properties into homes in the main tourist strip of the city.

But some hotel owners say relaxing current controls could spell disaster for the city’s tourism industry and called on hotel owners to repay the support they have received from the city during better times.

Current planning conditions in the city restrict hotel owners from converting hotels into housing in the core tourism area between Regency Square and Bedford Street, unless a hotel has been empty for five years.

Under the City Plan currently under discussion, owners applying for a change in use would only need to effectively show that they are a competent but struggling business.

Among the requirements under the proposals, owners would have to show that they had been attempting to sell the hotel in its current use for more than a year, show occupancy levels, prove the hotel was professionally managed and attempts had been made to save the business.

Looking to sell

Nick Head of the Ambassador Hotel in New Steine, Brighton said that if the current ruling was changed, the writing could potentially be on the wall for almost every hotel in the city outside of the conference giants of the Hilton Metropole and the Grand.

He said there was an increasing number of hotel owners looking to sell and there had been a lot of lobbying for a change in the last five years.

He said: “It might be a nice solution for one hotel owner but you will end up with somewhere like Hastings, which is just no longer a resort.

“Hotel owners have had a lot of advertising support from Visit Brighton and the subsidising of the conferences, and you can’t ask the city to invest in you and then say when times are tough that I will cash in my chips and thanks for all the help.”

Relaxed approach

Brighton and Hove head of tourism Adam Bates said he was very relaxed about any proposed change.

He said: “I think the current scheme is restrictive and this would be more market-driven to respond to demand and I think it will work itself out.

“We want to make sure that we have enough stock to meet the needs of our conference clients and I have no fears that it won’t be met, we have had a lot of hotels come into the city in recent years with Jury’s Inn, My Hotel, Royal York and the new Ibis being built.”

A Brighton and Hove City council spokesman said: “The rules around converting hotels into residential properties are one of a number of issues that we asked local residents and businesses to give their views on as part of our consultation on a new City Plan.”

Councillors will consider the results of the consultation exercise on the City Plan on Thursday, January 24.

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