Lyme’s iconic Bay Hotel, after several changes of owner, direction, form and fortune, has returned to its original request of 2004, which was for change of use from hotel to unrestricted/ holiday residential apartments, a request which was firmly turned down at that time.
Gaining this consent would presumably mean that once upgraded internally the apartments could be marketed individually, which the applicant hopes would make up for the “falling demand” for hotel accommodation and the increasing difficulty of vehicular access, not to mention the general economic downturn. (It should be noted that other hoteliers in the town assert that there is a strong demand for hotel accommodation at the right price.)
The original objectors felt very strongly that maintaining the Bay as a hotel was a vital element in supporting life at the front, especially amid the ugly emptiness of the old shelters. Now things are not quite so clear cut. There are two restaurants, two shops a modern house and enhanced Shelters. It could now be said that the Bay only has to contribute to this ensemble rather than carry all responsibility for it.
The Town Council and the Development trust have been pressing for years for a means of preventing the continual reduction in the number of hotel beds. West Dorset District Council has recognised this problem and in the Local Plan has included the following statement:
“Proposals that would result in the permanent loss of hotels and larger guesthouses will be resisted unless it can be demonstrated that their tourist accommodation use is no longer viable and there is no market for the business as a going concern.”
The Local Plan is at its final draft stage and the applicant suggests that it should not be given much weight because of that. However, the plan has been through a considerable amount of public consultation and will almost certainly come into force next year with minimal changes – though no one can be forced to run a hotel.
We would welcome views on the potential loss of the hotel. Although such response may well be too late to affect any written response to this application, we may have the opportunity to express them when, as is likely, the application goes before the WDDC Planning Committee.