One of the investors behind a proposal to build a 68-room hotel in the middle of Falmouth has told the Packet it is a challenge but it is the right location.
Michael Tomkins, along with co-investors, bought the old Argos site on Berkeley Vale at auction from a pension company after it failed to find a retailer to take the building over.
Yesterday the plans for a four storey 68-bed hotel were revealed for the first time at a public consultation organised by the developers to get people’s response to the proposal. The Argos building will be completely demolished and the hotel built in its place from scratch.
While there were concerns over parking, of which there currently is none, there was mixed response with some in favour and some raising concerns.
Mr Tomkins, who lives in Carbis Bay, told the Packet: “It’s important that we engage with the local community and understand the challenges that everyone raises, such as local issues some of which are relevant, some won’t be.
“You have to sift through that and try and understand and help to deal with what you can and if you can’t, it is what it is.
“You’ve got to engage with people. No good just putting in a planning application light the touch paper and wait. Let’s have a conversation first.”
The application has already been through a pre-app with Cornwall Council which, Mr Tomkins says, has refined the design quite a bit because the front of the building is in the conservation zone.
“We have taken account of the heritage buildings around us and hopefully have a design that fits in,” he said.
He said the investors were not allied to any particular brand but the hotel is being marketed as a mid-range budget operation and correspondingly room rates will be lower.
“Once we’ve got planning consent we can see which way we want to take it. Either with a brand or we’ll do it ourselves. We have got the skills to do it ourselves. Let’s take it one step at a time.”
He said there is “obviously” the holidaymaker aspect, but with the proposed hotel backing onto 152 student rooms operated by Sanctuary, many parents will be visitors to the town as well as visitors and business people.
“We’re not focussing on any particular sector of the market,” he said. “It’s not just for tourists, it’s budget accommodation in the centre of Falmouth which will be attractive to a lot of people.
“We didn’t initially think hotel, I think we looked at a number of options: residential, student accommodation and hotel.
“I just think when you look at this site it’s the right location for a hotel. There are no larger hotels in Falmouth town centre, they’re all out beyond Pendennis Point and along the beaches and there is a demand in the town centre for a hotel.”
Concerns were expressed at the consultation over the lack of parking at the site.
Pam Cowan from the Save Our Falmouth action group, told the Packet: “My major concern is the parking because the developer has indicated that there will be no parking and they will use the Quarry car park and car parking in Falmouth is really hard anyway.
“All around this area is absolutely ram-jammed and I think people would be against it because of the parking situation.”
Her sentiments were echoed by Falmouth town councillor David Saunby who said, while he supported the application in principle, the lack of parking may be a stumbling block.
"I think the idea of a low cost hotel in the town centre is a good one,” he said. “But because of lack of parking on site for its patrons and staff, it could prove to be its stumbling block, if a formal planning application is submitted to Cornwall Council"
A full planning application is expected to be submitted in the next few months.