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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

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Rivals' fears over budget hotel plan for town

Hoteliers and guest house owners concerned at the impact of a budget hotel plan will be listened to.

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Gordon Nicolson: Council must strike a balance

That was the pledge of a council leader after he heard of fears that small businesses could be driven out of the market by cut-priced competition.

Eden’s Gordon Nicolson says all views will be fully considered as proposals for the second phase of the New Squares regeneration scheme in Penrith are drawn up.

Supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, the project’s developer, says market conditions mean the more shops and homes originally planned for the next phase of work are no longer the best option. The first phase included a number of shops, several of which have not been filled.

Bosses have told their landlords, Eden council, that building a budget hotel and filling station would be the better route to take, arguing they would create jobs, as well as attracting more custom and investment to the town.

But the prospect of changing direction is proving controversial.

Worried business bosses and residents packed a council meeting at Penrith Town Hall on Thursday night to voice their concerns, hitting councillors with a string of concerns and queries.

Councillors agreed to consider the views of the public and business community as part of a detailed report when Sainsbury’s submits its proposals.

Council leader Gordon Nicolson said afterwards: “We anticipated that the initial proposals by Sainsbury’s for phase two of Penrith New Squares would attract a great deal of public interest.

“This is why members agreed recommendations that the views of the public and businesses concerning this matter will be included in a detailed report for the council to determine as landlord, when a full proposal is ready.”

Phase two affects the land in front of the Sainsbury’s store, built as the anchor for the first phase of New Squares.

Any change to the original proposals would require a new planning application to be submitted to the authority.

A report to councillors stated: “The developer’s view is that there’s insufficient demand in Penrith to justify the provision of further retail premises and housing development.”

Mr Nicolson added: “As a landlord, we are obliged to give these proposals due consideration.

“We recognise the strength of public interest in this matter and there will be opportunities for interested parties to make views known.”

Councillors in Eden have also agreed to pursue proposals to make money and offset a budgeted deficit of £445,000 by 2017/18 because of the Government’s spending squeeze.

A team of officials is to look at schemes that will generate income, including a house-building plan, looking at creating a renewable energy business and redeveloping or leasing council-owned land to boost jobs and bring money in.

Mr Nicolson described the decision as a bold one that would have major benefits for the authority’s future financial stability, adding: “By securing the projected financial benefits of just a few of these proposed projects we can deliver and enhance the services we provide.”

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