Premier Inn could be moving to Tunbridge Wells after plans were submitted to convert the town’s county and family court on London Road into a 110-bedroom hotel.
This would make it one of the largest establishments in Tunbridge Wells in what is already a competitive environment for hoteliers, and opposition is already mounting.
Submitted on the chain’s behalf by Hobbs Parker Property Consultants, the document states the equivalent of 41 new full-time jobs could be created as a result of the development.
The plans include changes to the external appearance of the building, an extension to one side, and the addition of a fifth-floor roof extension.
The extensions will more than double the total amount of floor space in the building from 1,956 sq m currently to 4,305 sq m.
Aesthetically, the building is to be ‘stripped back’ to its structural elements, with the exterior rebuilt using the existing concrete frame.
Current plans will result in a steep decline in the number of parking spaces available, which will fall from 77 to just 19, while there will be the addition of 12 cycle spaces.
The opportunity for the Whitbread-owned budget hotel group has arisen due to a decision by the Ministry of Justice to close the court in December.
However, the plans have been criticised by Simon Colbran, owner of the Tunbridge Wells Retreat hotel, which is just yards away from the courthouse.
Mr Colbran confirmed it would likely impact his business in a negative way:
“I am not that happy about it. The parking is a nightmare and they want to have a hotel without any parking.
“This hotel [the Retreat] has been here for years and is privately owned. It would be a shame for Tunbridge Wells to turn out like every other town.”
He is not the only person to object to the proposals, with one local resident describing the development as ‘inappropriate’.
Natalie Smith-Knudson, who lives in the neighbouring Post Office Square, questioned the impact on traffic and said it would ‘significantly’ decrease the value of homes in ‘Royal’ Tunbridge Wells.
But Cllr Jane March, Portfolio Holder for Tourism, Leisure and Economic Development, expressed enthusiasm for the idea of a new hotel.
She said: “Without commenting on specific planning applications, I can say that in principle I would welcome additional hotel accommodation in the town. I know from the Tourist Information Centre that because Tunbridge Wells is a popular place to visit, they frequently find there is an unmet demand for guest accommodation here.”
A spokesman for the hotel chain said: “Premier Inn won’t be commenting on this for now.”