Seafront hotel pulls out of Eastbourne tourism groups after planning row

One of Eastbourne's top seafront hotels is pulling out of a consortium which boosts conference business in the town saying it is disappointed with the council's attitude to the tourism industry locally.

York House Hotel Royal Parade Eastbourne
York House Hotel Royal Parade Eastbourne

The Best Western York House Hotel is also not renewing its membership of VisitEastbourne, the tourist guide, and says it is down to decisions being made by the council’s planning committee members which are not “considering the concerns of the industry”.

The Eastbourne Conference Consortium is made up of mainly hotels and guesthouses which, through a fee and room commissions, pay into a fund to pay the sales staff for the council’s Devonshire Conference Centre because the council has historically not been able to fund the costs itself.

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The move by the York House is linked to decisions by Eastbourne Borough Council’s planning committee including councillors refusing to allow some hoteliers to install UPVC windows in their properties and approving the opening of more hotels when the town, according to the hoteliers’ association, already has far too many beds.

Mark Cotman, the operations director at the York House said, “Beneath the surface part of our decision was the fact we have been watching planning carefully and we are not happy at what we are hearing, especially after having met local planning officers to come up with a workable resolution for all parties.

“Four months later we have heard nothing. I know local authorities have a tendency to be ‘slow’ but....

“We are concerned therefore they are making decisions based on their own views rather than on the weight of the evidence and concerns of the industry. The expression goes ‘it’s good to talk’; we have tried but to date no avail.”

The Eastbourne Hospitality Association is also due to meet this week and discuss rejoining the conference consortium.

Chairman Darren Weir said, “We are committed to supporting the £42million investment at Devonshire Park. We have a meeting soon which will include a presentation by the council about rejoining the conference consortium. I do fear though that unless members of the planning committee change their approach on tourism and bed spaces and are willing to say they need to learn more, this is going to be an underlying theme in many hotelier decisions and more will follow suit.

“Members of the public should realise for two years we have worked behind the scenes to make the planning department realise the difficulties facing our industry. They are just not listening.”

A spokesperson at Eastbourne Borough Council said, “The York House Hotel paid for both VisitEastbourne and ConferenceEastbourne membership in 2015 but as they opted out of VisitEastbourne membership for 2016, they can’t renew their conference membership when it comes up for renewal in March.”

“The Conference Membership Scheme is only open to members of VisitEastbourne. The York House Hotel is not in membership and therefore not eligible to join this scheme. Hotels that are in membership of the conference scheme pay an annual fee and then they have priority for the bookings from the many delegates that stay in Eastbourne during their conference.

“We have 23 annual conferences within the Devonshire Park Centre with more than 16,000 delegates looking for accommodation and member hotels generate significant income from paying a modest membership fee.

“The membership fee is used to promote Eastbourne nationally as a conference destination, and fees are based on location and number of bedrooms, ranging from £35 to a maximum of £1,000 per year.

“Some of the hotels that pay £1,000 have generated over £47,000 worth of bookings in a single year.”

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