Warwick Racecourse’s future questioned as hotel plan is refused
CAMPAIGNERS against a hotel at Warwick Racecourse were jubilant this week after plans were refused permission this week, but the course’s owners say it could have “serious consequences” for its future.
Warwick District Council’s planning committee voted to turn down plans for the 100-bedroom hotel by six votes to four on Tuesday.
Officials had recommended allowing the hotel because of economic benefits to the town, even though the council’s own conservation architect had misgivings about its ‘landmark’ drum-shaped tower.
Citing loss of light, loss of privacy, noise and light pollution, “chronic” air pollution and “irreparable” damage to public space, resident Nigel Hamilton said the supposed economic benefit did not justify the damage.
He added: “You have been asked to approve a very large building on a very small site only to the benefit of the rich.”
At the meeting, Christine Hodgetts of the district’s Conservation Area Advisory Forum told councillors the “enormous, insensitive block” would rob the conservation area at Hampton Street and the common of its value.
She said: “Towns with commons like this have a deep affection for them, even if there is no one left who remembers them as they were.”
Warwick Arms Hotel owner Bernard Swindells warned that if the hotel opened he would no longer have a viable business.
Claiming to speak on behalf of all hotel-owners in Warwick, he said: “Please do not let it be said that the blight that would be inflicted on Warwick town centre by this hotel, the profits of which would only line the pockets of faceless shareholders, happened on your watch.”
But the racecourse’s chairman David Hill said there were no shareholders and money went back into racecourse facilities.
Mr Hill claimed the hotel would help keep visitors in the town overnight and serve breakfast only, ensuring the rest of the town would benefit, adding that a hotel would preserve the racecourse as a viable venue. He said: “What other business survives on being open only 20 days a year?”
Cllr Michael Kinson (Con, Warwick West) predicted the racecourse’s restaurant would be brought into use if the hotel opened. but officers said it was not worth creating a rule to stop this.
Committee chairman Cllr Bertie Mackay (Ind, Stoneleigh) said he had received 22 submissions in two days from businesspeople in Warwick supporting the hotel.
He said: “Obviously, the threat is there. But there is also an opportunity and that is the important element within this. The threat can be mitigated.”
But ward councillor Bob Dhillon (Con, Warwick West) said it would be “perverse” not to follow the advice of the conservation architect, adding there were alternative sites nearby.
Reacting to the decision, Racecourse chairman David Hill said on Wednesday: “Warwick Racecourse is deeply disappointed. This decision could have serious consequences for the future of the racecourse. We are awaiting confirmation of the detailed reasons for refusal before considering the options.”
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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