Plans to bulldoze a row of Morecambe businesses to make way for a new hotel, shop and restaurant have been recommended for approval.
A report published today by Lancaster City Council planners, says the scheme at 228-235 Marine Road Central overlooking Morecambe Bay should go ahead.
If final approval is given, it would affect the buildings occupied by the Bayside Emporium antiques centre, The Consult Centre social media agency and former Bays Bikes shop, AJ's Burger Bar, the Lakeland Rooms and the new Sunny-Side gym (in the former Strawberry Dance Studios).
The final decision on whether to grant planning permission for the five-storey building, which includes a ground floor shop and restaurant as well as the 86-bedroom hotel in the other four floors, will now be made by Lancaster City Council planning committee, a group of elected councillors.
They will meet to discuss the plans at Morecambe Town Hall on Monday December 4 at 10.30am. The meeting is open to the public.
Beyond Radio broke the news of the planned hotel in July. You can read more on the background here.
The official plans include artist's impressions of how the new development might look. See below, image by DAY Architectural of Manchester.
A Lancaster City Council report, published today, said: "The proposed development seeks to provide significant investment and economic contribution to the tourism economy in Morecambe, redeveloping and creating beneficial use of this commercial space in a key location fronting the Bay.
"Whilst there are unfortunate impacts to existing occupants and tenants of the buildings to be demolished, and the property will have an impact on an non-designated heritage asset, the avoidance of wider or greater heritage impacts through the proposal evolved substantially through the extensive pre-application process ensures that the economic and social benefits of this level of investment within Morecambe outweigh this identified harm and any flood risk harm to the mitigated development."
Planning permission should be granted subject to a number of conditions, says the report.
Lancashire County Council's Highways team have objected to the scheme.
They have "serious concerns regarding the complete lack of dedicated parking".
"On-street parking would not be for the exclusive use of the development," they said.
"There will need to be alterations to the existing Traffic Regulation Orders and the potential lowering of kerbs to allow for the loading of goods vehicles, the collection of refuse and recycling and possibly to aid the usage of a proposed mobility spaces."
Environmental Health, the Environment Agency, the Lead Local Flood Authority and Natural England had no objections to the plans.
The council received six objections and two letters of support from members of the public.
Complaints included that "the hotel would have an adverse impact upon existing long-standing businesses, forcing tenants and residents from properties, with loss of employment within existing businesses on-site, adverse financial implications, and financial impacts to neighbouring businesses during demolition/construction".
Other concerns were that there is "no need for a new hotel, and preferable undeveloped sites for a new hotel" and that the "existing terrace contributes to the towns identity and heritage" as well as the impact on "overstretched parking provision".
Supporters said the hotel would be "positive for Morecambe" with the "provision of quality hotel space" and would "enhance the area and indicate investment in Morecambe".
Historic England said: "Demolition of the existing buildings on the site would result in the loss of their historic interest, as well as the loss of buildings that sit comfortably within the wider streetscene. The introduction of a five-storey building in this location is out of keeping with the relatively uniform character of the streetscene. This impact is not helped by the monolithic nature of the design."
A design and access statement for the plans has been produced by DAY Architectural architects, based in Manchester, on behalf of the applicant Luke Averill.
It says: "The Averill Group (TAG) is a creative and growing development company based in Manchester" who "pride themselves on identifying, securing and advancing development opportunities in strategic locations throughout the UK".
It says the "dilapidated condition of existing buildings of limited heritage value provides an opportunity to reinstate a sense of grandeur to the promenade" and the development is "a unique opportunity to activate and reinstate a strong frontage to the promenade with both public realm space as well as potential retail opportunities to be explored".
The statement says: "The proposals at 234 Marine Road Central are to create a formalised entrance to the hotel and retail store. The aspiration aims to bring life to the streetscape with areas for planting, seating and external spill out areas for the food and beverage offer. Seating and planters allow guests to navigate to the entrances and provide an external waiting/meeting area.
"Soft landscape planting has the opportunity to provide interest along Marine Road at the interface between the private and public realm. The use of native, cultivars and planting known to be attractive to wildlife is proposed."
Work on the proposed Eden Project Morecambe, an earmarked new attraction across the Promenade from the planned hotel, is expected to start in 2024 with a targeted opening date of 2026.
The Eden facility is expected to bring 740,000 visitors annually to the area.