A CONTROVERSIAL planning application to convert garage space into a ten-bedroom hotel in Lyme Regis has been approved by West Dorset District Council.

The application for the hotel proposal in Coombe Street was discussed by the development control committee last Thursday, August 14 – but the town council recommended refusing the bid.

The proposal includes alterations to, and an extension of, the existing garage to create a ten-room hotel while also retaining the existing parking facilities.

A spokesperson for West Dorset District Council said: “The application was approved, but the street frontage design was amended slightly to simplify it and reduce the glazing.

“Alterations to part of the roof materials were made, and photovoltaic panels incorporated. The number of roof lights was also reduced.”

The hotel is envisaged as one where minimal supervision is required; with the applicants saying that guests could book the accommodation on the internet and no dining room would be required because guests would eat out locally.

It is claimed the scheme would also generate employment through hotel maintenance and cleaning.

The application stated that the site lies ‘in the heart of town’ opposite listed residential properties and near a gift shop, a picture gallery and the Town Mill.

Larry Gibbons, who owns the Largigi restaurant and attached garage with his wife Gina, said the application was met by a ‘unanimous vote’ for approval at the council meeting.

He added: “We are overjoyed and very happy that the application went through.

“It was a year to the day last Thursday since we first put the planning application in and it’s taken this long to come to fruition.

“This will be good news for the people of Lyme and of benefit to all; because I believe this hotel will be the first one built since the last hotel in Lyme was closed down.

“This certainly hasn’t been easy and will now be a case of slow progress but sure progress; we’re hoping to start building early next year.”

Planning issues discussed by councillors included increased hotel accommodation in the town, the effect on the character of the conservation area and on the setting of listed buildings and residential amenity.

Lyme Regis Town Council recommended refusing the application due to site ‘overdevelopment’.

Town councillors were particularly concerned with the possible increase in street traffic and lack of parking for service vehicles – describing ‘Coombe Street as ‘already very congested’.

The town council also said that while described as a hotel, the proposed facility provided no reception area, services, public area, storage areas and appeared ‘to resemble a complex of bedsits’.

Four letters of objection were received with concerns over loss of privacy, loss of daylight due to the size of building, potential light pollution, night-time noise and more.

A letter received from the Lyme Regis Society suggests approval should specify that ‘no future change of use be allowed without a realistic market evaluation’.

However, the report summarised that the scheme provided an ‘innovative approach’ to the provision of affordable hotel accommodation in a ‘sustainable town centre location.’