£3.5m hotel plans in Welwyn Garden City look to be in tatters after homes bid

PUBLISHED: 08:39 20 April 2015 | UPDATED: 08:39 20 April 2015

An aeriel view of Stonehills House in Welwyn Garden City

An aeriel view of Stonehills House in Welwyn Garden City

Archant

Plans for a £3.5million hotel in the heart of Welwyn Garden City appear to be in tatters after owners decided to turn the site into flats instead.

The Tonstate Group, which owns Stonehills House in Stonehills, intends to convert the upper floors of the building into 23 flats.

Back in August 2013, the group was granted permission to open a 74-room three-star hotel on the site. At the time, owners said they were in talks with “a couple” of parties interested in running the hotel.

After the new planning application, a business leader has warned that opportunities are being missed.

Nick Brown, who chairs Welwyn Hatfield’s chamber of commerce, told the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “On the face of it we need hotel space for visitors to stay.

“A hotel would bring footfall and other opportunities for local businesses that flats will not.

“There is also a concern around parking, we would not recommend the building of flats without dedicated parking facilities.

“It is already difficult to park for free in the town centre and this affects visitors and retail sales.

“There are many councils that recognise that free parking attracts visitors and improves the local economy.”

When the plans were put forward two years ago, hotels in the borough warned the market was at saturation point, and claimed job losses would follow if a new business opened.

Under planning laws introduced by the Government in 2013, full planning permission is not required to turn empty offices into homes.

In February the WHT revealed that more than 350 homes could be created after landowners applied under the new guidelines.

Despite repeated attempts to contact The Tonstate Group, no response had been received as this newspaper went to press.

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