LETTER: New hotel in Buxton could be white elephant

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Understandably planning requests can give rise to objections from interested parties who may in their opinion be adversely affected. However an area of importance that I wonder about is if those making these applications have carried out any in depth market surveys to ascertain the true potential of the demand for whatever it is they are proposing.

It is of course difficult to accurately judge the impact an additional supermarket may or may not have on the existing market place, it may or may not bring in more shoppers who currently shop elsewhere but there is no accurate way of measuring this in advance.

On the other hand, accurate statistics do exist for overnight stays in Buxton in the accommodation market. These figures are gathered every month by Visit Britain from hoteliers all over the country including of course Buxton, collating occupancy levels for each day of the month.

I see from the plans for the Nestle site that yet another hotel in Buxton has been proposed at the same time when the number of bed spaces in Buxton has and is decreasing significantly over the last few decades mainly due to many hotels being redeveloped for housing of one form or another and this process has accelerated over the last decade with the closure of a number of B&Bs in addition to these hotels.

Currently there is one hotel and three B&Bs looking like they may close over the next few months. Yet another offers student accommodation during term time and only opens to the public when there are no students who need to stay.

So is it possible that the new hotels will replace a demand for bed spaces for those that have been lost by closure of others? I don’t think so.

Closures may be due in part to retirements or profit taking from redevelopment but could also be due to lack of demand for profitable business. Yes the Peak may be the most visited park after Mount Fuji but only a very small minority of these visits culminate in overnight stays.

The problem is that whilst there is a demand for tourist accommodation this is mainly, but not exclusively, a weekend trade with exceptions when there are significant events such as the July opera and Fringe festival when all bed spaces are taken for a three-week period.

Buxton is not generally perceived as a holiday destination for a stay for a week or two at a time - that demand is taken up by the Lake District and more obvious seaside resorts. Most bookings are for two or three days at the weekends, the rest of the year for short breaks for couples.

Therefore the weekday demand for couples staying overnight tends to be quite low and the demand such as it is drops mainly but not exclusively to one night stays for visits to the opera house or visits to relatives or weddings. Of course many hotels and B&Bs are prepared to take single occupancy from business people or tradesmen during the weekday but this would be at a reduced rate i.e. less profitable. Also there are certain months in Buxton, particularly when snow is due, that occupancy can drop to zero or near zero for a month or two at a time. January for most businesses is a month to be closed for renovations or holidays due to lack of demand.

So we already have Premier Inns proposing to build a new hotel on London Road although a more centralised location such as the Nestle site would have suited them better being next to the station and town centre but that is just my opinion of course.

By the way I see they are currently offering less than half price accommodation in four London locations so maybe the problem of filling bed spaces is not just a Buxton problem.

The Crescent is aiming to address a different market sector, if it ever opens that is, but again I wonder how many months of the year it will attract their target market particularly in the autumn and winter months.

The loss of the G&S led to a fall in bookings in August of 25% for us after taking in to account new visitors not able to book before but in no way did this new demand make up for the regular bookings from the G&S.

Thus we can see what the demand in peak summer month of August is which is well short of full occupancy.

So where is the demand coming from for another hotel in Buxton on the Nestle site? Unless companies such as Premier and whichever hotel occupies the Nestle site have grand plans to attract an entirely new in-rush of visitors then I can see at least one of the new hotels being a non-profitable white elephant.

We are hoping to move on next year to full retirement rather than part-time employment so we don’t have an axe to grind in case your readers think such may be the case.

Personally my view for the Nestle site would be a Tesco, a restaurant and a cinema. A cinema right next door to the station would I am sure attract custom from Whaley Bridge and other nearby villages and I cannot see why it should be anything other than profitable, after all there are many new profitable cinemas that have opened for business in recent times – so why not Buxton?

Colin Brett

Oldfield GH, Macclesfield Road