NEW hotels in York should have been blocked until a study into whether they were needed was produced, claimed the head of a hoteliers’ group.
Lionel Chatard, Middlethorpe Hall Hotel director and general manager and chairman of York Hoteliers Association, said he was disappointed with delays to creating a hotel strategy for the city and with the council’s decision to approve selling the Reynard’s Garage site in Piccadilly.
City of York Council leader James Alexander said this week that the city’s hotel strategy, which was first mooted more than two years ago, should be completed by March, but a fresh approach to York’s tourism sector must be in place first.
The authority approved selling the Reynard’s site – formerly home to 1930s aircraft manufacturer Airspeed Ltd – to one of four developers, who have all included a hotel in their plans.
This scuppered the Yorkshire Air Museum’s plans for a new visitor attraction celebrating Airspeed on part of the site, and was criticised by York’s former heritage champion Coun Dave Taylor.
Mr Chatard said the Airspeed attraction could have had similar appeal to the Jorvik Centre and would have been “unique and welcome”.
Hotel schemes recently approved include ones at St Leonard’s Place, Paragon Street, Walmgate and Layerthorpe. Mr Chatard said: “We were promised a strategy two years ago, and it is upsetting that while it is being worked on, applications for new hotels keep being approved.
“Seeing such willingness from the council to approve these developments is worrying, and we felt a moratorium on new hotels until the strategy is ready would have been fair. Hoteliers are not worried about competing, but the situation is just too much and it needs to be controlled.”
Kate McMullen, head of Visit York, said it welcomed investment in hotels, particularly those which helped to promote “something special and different”.
She said: “There is a need for a long-term assessment of accommodation requirements and a clear strategy is needed for the industry and the city. To continue to drive tourism’s economic impact, we must continually improve our total accommodation offer, ensuring visitors have a varied choice.”
Coun Alexander said the hotel strategy had been needed for some time, but could not be completed before York’s tourism shake-up and an assessment of the sector’s “appetite for growth”.