St Albans businesses welcome plans for Premier Inn hotel

A NEW hotel planned for the city centre could provide a much-needed boost for businesses at the northern end of St Peter’s Street and adjoining roads.

Premier Inns have submitted a planning application for a mixed-use scheme comprising a retail unit and a new budget hotel with around 120 bedrooms on the site of the former McDonald’s restaurant and neighbouring premises. It is due to be validated and posted on the district council’s website by the end of this week or early next week.

It would involve the demolition of the backs of buildings but the frontages, which are locally listed, would be retained.

Richard Pearson, acquisition manager for Whitbread Hotels and Restaurants which owns Premier Inns, said: “St Albans is high on our target towns list and we are very excited about this opportunity for Premier Inn.

“St Peter’s Street is an outstanding location and means that we can offer great value and great quality rooms in the heart of the town centre.”

He added: “Premier Inn is a great brand with a lot to offer and the hotel will be a real asset for St Albans by providing good quality accommodation at an affordable price.”

The site, which the Herts Advertiser revealed three years ago had been identified as a possible location for a budget hotel, is at the northern end of the city centre which has suffered the most from the retail downturn.

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A cross-party working group has been set up by the council to look at measures to support businesses there and along Catherine Street and Hatfield Road.

Among options which are being considered to boost footfall is offering 15 free one-hour parking spaces in the vicinity, better marketing and prioritising the area for signage.

Sally Watkins of Eve and Adam Spa, spokesperson for the Catherine Street traders, welcomed a Premier Inn at that end of the city centre which would be “very favourable” for the area.

She said the northern end of the city had always struggled with problems of anonymity: “We are quite anonymous to people on the other side of the town. A lot of our shops are bespoke or artisan but there are so many people in the area who are unaware of what Catherine Street has to offer.”

She praised Cllr Salih Gaygusuz, who formerly traded in Catherine Street, for his efforts to promote the area and added: “We do pay rates and we pay quite high rents but we didn’t feel that we had support from the council.”

The council’s planning portfolio holder, Cllr Teresa Heritage, said that she was very pleased that a major hotel chain had decided to try and place itself on the site: “The emerging strategy has identified the need for a budget three-star hotel in the city but it is a very sensitive site opposite Grade II listed buildings. We have been looking at how we can regenerate the area but we need to get the right type of building.”