Guest house

Coronavirus crisis and new Premier Inns lead to closure of family guesthouse

A hotel along one of Devon’s main roads is about to close – with a combination of coronavirus and Premier Inn to blame.

Court Hall in Monkton, located just off the A30, dates from the early 19th century and is currently operating as a hotel / guest house.

But the family-run country hotel has seen its occupancy become limited in recent years as the East Devon District Council planning committee learned it had not been profitable for six years.

The applicant, Cllr Colin Brown, who currently manages and lives in the hotel, had requested permission to change the use of the building from a hotel / guesthouse to a single unit, and advisers supported the recommendation of the agent approving the plans.

Although Cllr Brown, who represents the district of Dunkeswell and Otterhead, is a member of the committee, he took no part in the debate as was deleted for the Zoom meeting for its duration.

Introducing the proposal, Matthew Dalton-Aram, speaking on behalf of Cllr Brown, said the vacation accommodation industry has become competitive and therefore it is difficult to maintain profitability as the hotel does not have not making a profit for six years and only surviving by investing their own money in the business.

He added: “The new Premier Inns in Honiton and Seaton have made it difficult for the boutique hotel market because they can offer cheaper accommodation, and this has been made worse by the coronavirus pandemic, so they have chosen to close the guest house and cease operations. .

“The site is not attractive for a commercial proposal, and it was the historic Monkton Mansion, so the proposal would revert to its original use as a dwelling.”

Courthouse in Monkton
Courthouse in Monkton

Development director Chris Rose, in his report to the committee, said that although the site is not considered a sustainable location where future residents could easily access a range of services to meet their daily needs, as applicants already live on site, there would be no increase in the number of residential units on the site, nor additional sustainability requirements.

He added that there is a range of large hotel chains operating in the area as well as other boutique hotels and small guest houses, and that due to lack of interest from those wishing to to make a hotel, that would not entail the loss of all employment.

Mr Rose recommended approval of the program, saying: “It is not considered that in this case it would be reasonable to resist such a loss.”

Councilor David Key, who also represents the Dunkeswell and Otterhead area, proposed approval. He said: “I fully support the request as the use as a guesthouse property has decreased significantly and therefore I see no reason why this should not become a private home. Basically what killed this property was the new Premier Inn in Honiton because it hit them really hard. I see no problem going back to a private house.

Cllr Philip Skinner said this return to a house would not make any significant changes, while Cllr Olly Davey said they were basically asking to be able to close the guesthouse and occupy their own house, stating: “I don’t see no problem with that.

Cllr Tony Woodward added: “I don’t see how we can force them to keep it open against their will.”

The committee by eight votes to four abstentions in approving the plans, with some members opting out due to the close working relationship they have had with Cllr Brown.

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