Eastbourne may be a tourist town, but it seems we have too many rooms for hire.
As times change and the seaside holiday becomes less attractive, the Borough Council’s looking at ways to make it easier for smaller guest houses and B&Bs to switch to residential properties.
At a meeting on Tuesday (30 August), councillors discussed plans to relax current rules, which would cut through the red tape, currently preventing some smaller hotels from getting permission to cease trading and sell off the property for flats or development.
The decline in coach trips to the coast is being partly blamed for the number of vacant rooms in the town. Another trend in holidays is seeing people opt for shorter breaks on a more regular basis, but expecting premium quality rooms for their stays. With the lower end hotels and guest houses struggling to fill beds, they are lowering their prices, forcing others in the tourism trade to do the same, meaning there’s less profit to be put back into businesses.
The council wants to focus on making Eastbourne more upmarket, with a focus on prime hotel rooms on the seafront, or those overlooking green spaces in the town. It follows findings in The Tourist Accommodation Study (2015), which considered Eastbourne to have an oversupply of lower quality accommodation.
Currently Eastbourne is one of the largest suppliers of hotel rooms in the south east, outside of London, offering approximately 3,500 rooms across the town. Those in what is considered to be a less favourable area to stay – such as not on the seafront or offering nice views – could be considered for the switch to residential properties, which could take some 500 rooms off the market.
However, in order to qualify for permission to convert from a hotel to a residential property, businesses would have to prove they have run their accommodation properly and have tried in an appropriate manner to sell the site as a going concern, before resorting to a change of use permit application.
The ideas will now go to Cabinet on 14 September, with a view to holding a consultation into the proposals, which if approved, could come into force as early as Spring next year.