The council's reason for refusal referred to a local plan policy that resisted conversion of ground-floor premises to uses outside class A1 retail to protect the concentration of retail premises in the centre. But the inspector pointed out that the appeal proposal would not lead to the loss of an A1 use.
The hotel operator provided evidence of deteriorating occupancy rates, revenue and profitability over the previous five years. Efforts to find new owners who would continue the hotel use had failed, although the operator conceded that there had been significant initial interest.
The inspector reasoned that the increased numbers of pupils in the town would bring extra spending. The proposal would boost the local economy and would not conflict with economic development objectives in Planning Policy Statement 4, he decided. Moreover, he saw no evidence that the hotel's closure would lead to any shortage of visitor accommodation.
Inspector: Paul Jackson; Written representations.