So that’s lots of bluster but, when it really mattered, no vote to record the objections of the people he represents. One could be forgiven for thinking that he’s attempted to get some favourable local publicity by making all that noise, whilst trying to keep his political masters happy by not actually attempting to block a commercial development.
I know that the hotel business is said to be one of the few that is still doing well in the current poor economic conditions, but does Swindon town centre really need another 118 hotel rooms? That’s in addition to the 134 Holiday Inn Express and 229 Jurys Inn rooms opened in recent years. I ask because a planning application has just been submitted to convert the former Paragon Laundry on Aylesbury Street into a 118 room hotel. The application is full of the usual developer drivel about designing something that fits in with the local surroundings, even when the drawings show that it does no such thing. To quote from the design statement,
The massing of the proposed buildings relates not only to the immediate context but the wider Town Centre context.
In other words, the height of the hotel would completely dwarf nearby buildings: even the relatively new flats on Wellington Street are not as tall.
The middle and tall part of the building has been broken up into four main sections that correspond to the Victorian “rythm” (sic) of terraced houses.
If anyone can find nearby some six storey Victorian terraces without any doors and virtually no windows at ground floor level, I’d be very surprised.
The hotel will have only 14 car-parking places, apparently with agreement of council officers. The plan also says that ‘Public parking provision will be increased along Aylesbury Street’, that ‘In agreement with SBC, a drop off bay is proposed on Station Road’ but then contradictorily ‘the proposed redevelopment… will have no impact on the operation of the adjacent highway network.’ Given the frequent traffic queues in Station Road outside the proposed development, that seems highly unlikely.
The documents and drawings that accompany the proposal show it branded as a Hamptons hotel, part of the Hilton chain, though the status of their involvement is unclear from the application.
As yet another developer jumps on the hotel-building bandwagon, it’s difficult not to believe that in a few years time Swindon will have as big a surplus of hotel rooms as it currently has of flats apartments for rent.
I’ve been looking at the latest planning application for a Jurys Inn in Swindon. You’d have thought that, having revised their original planning application a couple of times, they would have tired of the habit, but no. So now they are back with a new application, very similar to the first, but with 20% less restaurant space and five fewer flats apartments.
Externally, there seems to be little difference between the two applications: it remains a ten storey slab of bricks and painted concrete. However, reading through the garbage that accompanies the application (and no, I’m not just talking about the refuse disposal strategy) I did notice that whoever drew some of the illustrations in the design statement has some problems with their balance. If this bit of developer-puffery is to be believed,
The scale of buildings rises towards the town centre
and they’ve drawn a pretty picture to show how their slab will fit in at the shorter end of this rising line…. It’s a tad unfortunate that they’ve only managed to produce this rising line by having it cut through the top storeys of the proposed hotel whilst passing several floors above the buildings closer to the centre. Anyone sober with a steady hand would have drawn a line that was level.
As an aside, I’m not quite sure what a ‘superior budget hotel’ is, nor what is ‘budget’ about paying £70 for a room, but that is what Jurys Inns claim to be. Just trying to bump up their search engine ratings in these economically troubled times, methinks.
Mark Gregson, owner of the Royston Hotel in Victoria Road, said the bigger chains could afford to squeeze local businesses out of the area. He said: “When the Travelodge opened for business I think we reached the limit of beds to customers, and if another comes along I think it will have a negative impact. The big companies have an advantage because they can afford to cut their prices by half for six months. They can run at a loss due to their financial backing and that’s something we just can’t do.”
Well… yes… that’s all true. But Jurys Inn is not really in the same market as The Royston Hotel, in which I stayed for almost a month when I first came to Swindon. Even at half-price, a room in a Jurys Inn would still be more expensive than the equivalent in The Royston. This is a little like M&S complaining of competition from Woollies — there’s a little overlap in what they offer, but not much.
Central ward councillor Derique Montaut said the problem was similar to the dominance of big supermarkets. “While we recognise the positive side of this for Swindon, attention has to be given to the local traders who could be forced out of existence.”