We desperately need more hotel rooms in Morecambe because tourism is booming once again.
That’s the claim from a leading hotelier who wants to spend £750,000 on 22 extra rooms but is being put off by council red tape.
Paul Bury says he is facing obstacles from Lancaster City Council as he plans to extend the Lothersdale Hotel and Aspect Bar on Marine Road Central.
Mr Bury says demand for hotel accommodation in Morecambe is “sky high” as the town experiences a tourism revival.
He is backed by other tourism champions and stats which show that visitor
numbers are up.
“We are up in terms of occupancy,” said Mr Bury.
“We talk to other hoteliers, the Midland, Clarendon, Travelodge, Holiday Inn, and they are all full most of the time.
“There’s a lot of positivity in the area. The road is bringing people in.
“But there really aren’t enough rooms. Demand for accommodation is sky high on festival weekends and we’ve lost major hotels like the Elms and the Broadway.
“Premier Inn wanted to come (onto the Frontierland site) but got tired of waiting.
“The vintage festival (in September), which is Morecambe’s biggest event, we knew people who were exhibiting who had to stay in Barrow. Within a 50 mile radius there was only one room available. We have to accommodate these people.
“We want to invest three quarters of a million by putting 22 bedrooms in but not getting anywhere with the council officers. It’s becoming frustrating.
“Other councils, like Elgin and Dunfermline, say ‘come and invest with us’ with open arms. Round here, it’s like ‘we don’t want investment’.
“It’s not like we’re looking to put something ridiculous in. We’re banging our heads against a brick wall.”
Mark Prada, chairman of Bay Tourism, said 1.3m people stayed overnight in the Morecambe Bay Area in 2016 but there are only a “few hundred good quality bed spaces” in Morecambe itself.
Mr Prada said almost every local quality hotel and guesthouse had “100 per cent occupancy” during festivals and events, and many had more than 90 per cent occupancy at other times.
“I believe we should encourage private sector investment from those businesses who want to further develop their existing hotels and guesthouses,” said Mr Prada.
“We are seeing a wonderful resurgence in demand for Morecambe and the Bay area, combined with the benefits that the new Bay Gateway are bringing and a boom in the staycation business that is coming from increased flight and travel costs, alongside poor exchange rates.”
Brian Bromiley, who organises his own events and chairs the Morecambe Events Co-Operative of festival promoters, said he knew of one other local businessman who was put off from building a new hotel in Morecambe by council red tape.
“I would love to see investment both in festivals and in accommodation for people who come to festivals,” said Mr Bromiley.
“If people can’t stay in Morecambe and have to go outside the area that doesn’t benefit the secondary spend in our town.”
Coun Janice Hanson, Cabinet member for regeneration and planning at Lancaster City Council, said: “Mr Bury’s claims are inaccurate.
“He was advised - almost a year ago - that his scheme would require planning permission, just like any other proposal of this sort, and was given practical advice on how to proceed.
“It is now up to Mr Bury to submit his planning application or not and, to date, he has chosen not to do so.
“If Mr Bury chooses to submit a planning application it will of course be taken on its own merits, but the council is very supportive of economic activity that will enhance Morecambe as a visitor destination.
“This is borne out by recent decisions including the trampoline park – which was a development that was heavily influenced and supported by the council – that is on course for opening this summer.
“Other projects include works to improve the public realm and pedestrian environment at Victoria Street and Euston Road, which will help to stimulate the local retail environment.
“The first phase of the sea defence wall has been completed to considerable acclaim and phases 2 and 3 have just been approved. The council has also supported the redevelopment of the Broadway Hotel site and continues to work with the developer, who has now started work on site.
“Permission has also been granted for the redevelopment of Frontierland, which it is now up to Opus North to deliver. Additionally there are numerous other schemes that are in pre-planning discussions that Mr Bury will not be aware of.“