Saturday 7 December 2013

Fortfield Hotel ... to ... Sanditon apartments

The front page of this week's Midweek Herald invited us to a 'Sneak peak!' [sic] of the new Sanditon flats in Sidmouth:

Home - Midweek Herald

The Sanditon website showcases the properties:


Home - Sanditon

The architects James Armitage point to the design elements:

The classical architecture draws on elements of the Sidmouth vernacular including metal balconies and verandas, but at the same time recognises the modern desire for larger window openings than those of the surrounding historic buildings.  Materials used include red brick (which is common in this part of the town), stone dressings, aluminium windows and zinc roofs.

Following extensive consultation with the local community, the Planning Department and English Heritage, the project was given unanimous approval by the East Devon Planning Committee.   The developer, ZeroC, is fully behind the scheme's sound eco credentials

Architects' design for the Sanditon Apartments, Fortfield, Sidmouth, Devon

Bradley's are acting as agents, with over half of the properties sold:

Homes & Houses For Sale across Southwest England

Sanditon House, SIDMOUTH, DEVON, EX10 | Bradleys Estate Agents

The developer ZeroC highlights the sustainability elements of the building project:

ZeroC is a highly experienced, sustainable developer. We are energy and carbon conscious and have been building design led low carbon homes and commercial buildings for over ten years.
Our portfolio of developments reflects the fact that we are able to successfully deliver an impressive range of styles, designs and specifications, from traditional architecture to cutting-edge contemporary design.
Our homes demonstrate enviable space standards that respect the buyer. For example, our 3 bedroom houses are generally the size of a volume house builder’s 4 bedroom house.
Recent projects have included the athlete’s village in Weymouth for the 2012 Olympics and many buildings on the much acclaimed Prince Charles development of Poundbury in Dorchester.
The industry recognises ZeroC as respected pioneers in sustainable development.
We lead the way in delivering outstanding design led homes that are environmentally and economically effective. This has been celebrated through a number of significant awards and accolades.  Our own in house consultancy, Ecofirst Consult, advises house builders and home owners on how to meet their sustainability targets. We have our own Code for Sustainable Homes and BREEAM assessors.
ZeroC - Sanditon

The ZeroC Mission...

ZeroC are highly experienced, very well funded, sustainable developers. We have been building low carbon homes and commercial buildings for the past 10 years.
We are equally comfortable building homes to traditional architecture as we are testing the bounds of cutting contemporary design.  We are passionate about the creation of places and always seek to build the right home in the right place.
The ZeroC Mission... - ZeroC

Questions have nevertheless been raised:

1) 'Sustainable development' might have been better served by renovating the original Fortfield Hotel, rather than building anew:

There is no possibility that the carbon impact of a new build will represent a carbon saving in the next few hundred years.

Futures Forum: Knowle: old bricks vs new build: embodied carbon

2) The proposed design for the new apartments has not been universally welcomed: 

Graham Cooper, who worked in architectural design and planning for 30 years, fears a mooted block of 40 apartments would be “out of proportion” with its historic surroundings.

“We can see it is a very deep plan. It seems to me it will be the largest single building in Sidmouth- in terms of volume.”

3) The owners of the original Fortfield Hotel had been locked in negotiations with the District Council over plans to demolish the hotel since 2006:

Plans to build a hotel on the East Devon seafront are being opposed by residents, who insist the design is too modern to complement the neighbouring period properties. 
Norwegian brothers Andrew and Phillip Torjussen, joint owners of the Fortfield Hotel at Sidmouth, have submitted plans to the district council for a modern replacement on the site.

Hotel Proposal Is 'Too Modern' for Residents - western morning news - July 05, 2006 - Id. 76979990 - vLex

An application to demolish a Sidmouth hotel has been submitted to East Devon District Council.
Owner Andrew Torjussen wants to build a new 57-room hotel and 14 apartments, with an annexe on the side, at the Fortfield Hotel site.

Hotel Owner Revises Plan in Light of 100 Objections - express echo - May 19, 2007 - Id. 76067139 - vLex

Two fires occurred at the derelict hotel in late 2010 and early 2011:
BBC News - Crews tackle derelict Fortfield Hotel fire in Sidmouth
BBC News - Fortfield Hotel in Sidmouth faces demolition after fire
Second inferno guts Sidmouth Fortfield Hotel - News - Sidmouth Herald
Demolition crews tackle fire-ravaged Fortfield Hotel - News - Sidmouth Herald
Investigation into “suspicious” Sidmouth Fortfield fire - News - Sidmouth Herald


Mr. Anthony Green asked Sidmouth Town Council to consider calling for an enquiry into the recent fire at the Fortfield Hotel. He also asked whether Members considered that the owner should have apologised to the residents for the impact that the fire had upon Sidmouth.

The Chairman thanked Mr. Green for his comments and confirmed that the conditions at the Fortfield Hotel had been discussed on numerous occasions by both the Town and District Councils. Councillor Liverton reported that a meeting had been arranged on Tuesday 11th January between the site owner, District Council officers and the Emergency Services to discuss the future of the building.

www.sidmouth.gov.uk/PDFs/STC Minutes 2011/STC-JAN10.pdf

4) There was  general opposition to the subsequent proposal to turn the hotel into flats:

Councillors also heard representations from the Chamber of Trade and the Hospitality Group against plans to turn the Fortfield Hotel on Station Road into flats. It was built in 1903 and has been vacant since it closed in 2006.
At the beginning of the year, there were two fires at the hotel in four weeks. Both blazes involved firefighters from across the region who battled for hours to put out the flames. The fires have been investigated by police as suspected arson attacks.
A planning application has been submitted by applicant Kim Stowe, of Zero C, to turn the hotel into two apartment buildings comprising 31 units as well as a basement car park.
Chairman of planning on the town council, Councillor John Hollick, said: "We were delighted with the number of people that turned up to the meeting. It was decided unanimously that the hotel site should be kept as a hotel.
"It is in a designated area for hotels so it would be breaking planning policy to allow such a development. There is still a long way to go, these things don't happen overnight."
MORE than 60 people turned up to a meeting of Sidmouth Town Council to hear members' views on two of the town's most high-profile issues. | Plymouth Herald
View From Online - News from West Dorset, East Devon & South Somerset

5) Fears were specifically expressed about the loss to the tourism industry locally:

Fortfield re-build must have tourism element

Monday, January 24, 2011 
Sidmouth hoteliers express need for tourism element in re-development of Fortfield Hotel site
ANY redevelopment of the Fortfield Hotel site must include a tourism element or there will be objections from Sidmouth’s other tourism providers.
The warning comes this week from Mark Seward, president of Sidmouth and District Hospitality Association. He said: “It is within the tourism designated area, you can’t just put up flats and apartments. This is the key issue. It is nothing to do with what they look like but they have got to be related towards tourism. If East Devon District Council allows flats, what is to stop any other hotelier letting their premises become dilapidated and get in such a terrible state?”
He said the matter was a ‘huge issue’ because if district planners allowed residential units not for tourism, there would be nothing to stop other hotels being turned into residential flats. Mr Seward said he had been asked how the association felt about the Fortfield closing.
“It is a big blow to the economy because the more hotels we lose the less credibility we have as a town for tourism. We don’t want to lose more bed spaces to residential. I am desperate to see something done with it. The association is deeply concerned, like everyone else, about the terrible state and eyesore, but the hotel falls within a planning policy area which dictates it has to be linked to tourism. Many of us believe that the hotel could have been running today and be good competition. We are duty bound to object to anything that replaces the site that doesn’t have appropriate tourism related activity.”
Kim Slowe, MD of Poundbury, Dorchester, based developer Zero C, which has an option to buy the Fortfield site subject to planning consent, said ongoing discussions were taking place with EDDC over the potential ‘loss’ of a hotel to Sidmouth.
“The hotel died because it was not commercially viable, there’s no point replacing it,” he said. “We have been advised by everybody there is enough hotel accommodation. There may be a shortage of other holiday accommodation and discussions are on-going on how we can help with that in our scheme. We are giving proper regard to the council’s policies on hotel accommodation retention and affordable housing. All options are being explored to get the right balance.”
He said talks over an ‘off-site’ community cash contribution, known as a section 106 agreement, were also on-going. “There is likely to be a tourism element, we know what the policies are. There is always more than one way to crack a nut,” added Mr Slowe.
An EDDC spokesman confirmed the site was “within the Principal Holiday Accommodation area”, but added: “The change of use or redevelopment of hotels and other forms of holiday accommodation to non-tourism accommodation uses will not be permitted unless there is no physical or economic potential for continued tourist use.” He said previous applications for the site were refused because of the scale and design of the replacement buildings.
Fortfield re-build must have tourism element - News - Sidmouth Herald

Tourism policy must stay over Sidmouth hotel site plans

Monday, August 15, 2011 
ALLOWING the building of apartments on the site of the demolished Fortfield Hotel, could signal the end of other Sidmouth hotels.
This warning was made by Mark Seward, owner of two seafront hotels, at Wednesday’s breakfast meeting of Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce.
He hosted the meeting at Dukes, and told guest speaker Kate Little, head of economy, planning and countryside services at East Devon District Council: “If this is allowed on a viability basis then there are hoteliers in this town who will be able to interpret this viability clause and manufacture a similar situation, and so our hotel stock will diminish considerably.”
EDDC’s development management committee will consider an application by ZeroC developers to build 31 apartments on the Fortfield Hotel site when it meets on Tuesday, August 23.
The company has an option to buy the site from owner Andrew Torjussen.
Mrs Little suggested the site was on the “cusp” of the boundary of an area covered by EDDC’s policy to include a tourism element on new developments within that area.
She was left in no doubt how the town’s hoteliers and traders felt about possibly losing the site for tourism after telling them: “There is no market there (for a hotel) at the moment.”
Mr Seward believes others in Sidmouth’s tourism industry could stop refurbishing their hotels and let them become dilapidated if this tourism inclusion policy is ignored, setting a precedent.
“Guests won’t return, it becomes less viable, makes less profit and then the case is argued that mid-market hotels are not viable,” he said.
Chamber chairman, Richard Eley, said the Fortfield Hotel had never been put on the market for sale as a hotel, so it was impossible to judge whether it would have been viable.
Businessman Edward Willis Fleming said Sidmouth High Street was robust because the town had good hotel stock, bringing in a good turnover of people into its shops. Losing hotels would, he said: “diminish the quality of the High Street”.
Mrs Little, who advised the hospitality association and chamber to put their views to next month’s planning committee, said if the application was refused she had no doubt evidence would be produced to a planning inspector by the applicant that the site had not been viable for many years.
*ZeroC has said it is committed to helping ensure £1.5million would be spent in Sidmouth on tourism, affordable housing, schools and public open spaces, if permission is granted.

6) The Town Council opposed the 2011 plans to demolish the hotel and build a block of flats:


Construction of two attached apartment  buildings comprising 31 units, basement  car park and associated landscaping.

Unable to Support

1) The Town Council appreciate the developers attempt to develop this site in a manner sensitive to the area and appreciate the care taken with design, however, it does nothing to alter the Town Council’s opinion that this development cannot be supported.

2) It has not been proven that the Fortfield Hotel was not viable, or that a hotel on this site would not be successful.

3) This is within an area designated as a Principal Holiday Accommodation Area (Policy TO2) and if the policy is breached an unacceptable precedent will be set to the detriment of Sidmouth. 

4) If this site must be developed, then perhaps flats of a self-catering or serviced accommodation nature should be considered.

5) Tourism is Sidmouth’s primary industry and together with other businesses rely on visitors to remain viable.

6) Any loss of hotel in our beautiful town changes the very nature of that which is so wonderful about this special Regency seaside resort and, therefore, must be refused.

NOTE : If the District Council should approve this application and receive a large sum of money it is essential that this is used to promote tourism in Sidmouth and no other area.
13 letters of objection/comment were read by the Town Clerk)
(Councillor Mrs Newth and Councillor Sullivan declared an interest)

www.sidmouth.gov.uk/PDFs/Planning_Minutes_2011/Planmin Tuesday 24.05.11.pdf

7) Despite these misgivings, the District Council approved of plans to demolish the hotel and build a block of flats: 
8) There have been issues with regard to the Local Plan:

SVA reply to EDDC LDP Draft 21 
General Comments on Chapter 14 -Sidmouth

6.2. The need for protection and support for the Hospitality industry in the town is a policy in the current plan. The recent demolition of the Fortfield hotel and replacement with housing was in contravention of that. No mention is made in the proposed LDP of any such policy. 

The LDP, specifically in 14.5, needs to re-assert EDDC’s commitment to support the Hospitality industry. 

SVA response to final LDP June 2012

5.We are pleased to note the provisions of Strategy 32 of the Plan, which provides that applications for a change of use from employment or retail to residential use will only be permitted where it can be demonstrated that there is no interest from local businesses in retaining the land for its current use and would hope that these principles will be conservatively applied. 
We consider that, unless there are exceptional circumstances, there should be no re-allocation of employment land for residential construction, nor change of use from another category, such as has happened at Parson’s Yard and the Fortfield site with EDDC’s approval.
Sid Vale Association - SVA response to final LDP June 2012

13. Sidmouth 

How we reached this Policy Position 
The Preferred Approach for Sidmouth was to accommodate modest housing and employment growth whilst consolidating the existing qualities and character of the town. 

Responses to the Preferred Approach emphasised the environmental qualities of Sidmouth and it was felt that any additional housing should be accommodated within the town. There have been a large number of planning permissions for housing in Sidmouth since 2006 and at April 2011 there were around 344 homes either under construction or with planning permission. In view of the number of homes already delivered/likey to be delivered and the environmental constraints of the town, surrounded by an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Coastal Preservation Zone, it is reasonable to reduce the number of new dwellings proposed in Sidmouth to 150. 

It is likely that this number can be planned for within the existing Built-up Area Boundary through redevelopment opportunities, such as the Fortfield Hotel site for which there is a resolution to grant planning permission for 31 homes. Subject to this development being demonstrated to be ‘deliverable’, these 31 homes would be taken from the 150 home target to leave sites for 119 homes to find. Only if deliverable sites for these homes could not be identified within the existing town would consideration be given to extending the Built-up Area Boundary to accommodate additional housing.

The EDDC Local Development Plan (LDP), which includes Sidmouth, currently out for public consultation, is a mish-mash of ill considered ideas and proposals, unsupported by facts

Firstly: the demolition of the Drill Hall. Sidmouth must be the only sea front town in the UK where a prime piece of sea front real estate is likely to become a “temporary car park” because of the lack of ANY development plan for the Port Royal area (and the LDP barely acknowledges this). Despite attempts by the SVA, Chamber of Commerce, Vision Group and others to encourage and help EDDC to prepare a comprehensive development plan for the Port Royal end of the Esplanade, the council has steadfastly remained in denial about the need for this. As a result the eastern end of town remains a complete eyesore. Any development will be considerably in the future, leaving the site as a car park for many years.. 

The available Section 106 money available from the developer of the Fortfield Hotel site (where again EDDC complacency and lack of planning has permitted the erection of another block of apartments) should be used to prepare a comprehensive plan for restrained development of this scenic area. EDDC must not think that they can allow a developer to plan and impose a large apartment block here as a price for “improving the area”. What a shambles we now have.

9) There has been the issue of the S106 Funding, of which £1.5m was promised and which excludes on-site affordable housing:

FORTFIELD: Sidmouth’s fight for £1.5million

Monday, November 28, 2011 
SIDMOUTH representatives have vowed to fight until the final minute for £1.5million up for grabs after a developer was given the go-ahead to replace an historic hotel with homes.
Town ward district councillors fear their own authority will splash a huge community cash settlement - from the transformation of the former Fortfield Hotel site - across East Devon. One fears Sidmouth might not even benefit from half of the money.
ZeroC will begin building 31 apartments in March. Eighty-eight per cent of the developer’s cash is to compensate for the absence of tourism and ‘affordable’ housing elements in its scheme.
East Devon District Council (EDDC) Cabinet members are set to determine how the money will be spent in January.
Sidmouth councillors Sheila Kerridge, Frances Newth and Peter Sullivan are concerned other areas will get a slice of the funding.
“It’s doubtful we’ll get the full amount,” said Councillor Kerridge. “I’m concerned we won’t get the lion’s share. It could be less than 50per cent. We’re going to lobby until the last minute trying to get a good proportion for Sidmouth. It’s due to us.”
Cllr Newth said: “We want to see as much of the money as possible benefit of our community – and that’s what we’ll fight for. Sidmouth needs to be compensated.”
Cllr Sullivan added: “There are different people within East Devon looking at that money. It’s a substantial amount.”
Planning permission was issued to ZeroC after the firm agreed to hand over £1.325million towards affordable housing and tourism, and £114,000 for open space provision – all district council issues.
A £58,000 contribution towards education provision and £3,000 for local transport initiatives – county council matters – will also be made.
An EDDC spokesman said: “At this time we’re not in a position to speculate on how members may want to spend the money.” He added funds would come forward in three equal instalments as the development progresses, and it “might be a while” until all of the money has been paid. The council said in May that the cash would be spent “to benefit the whole district”.

We have been told that the S106 funding from the Fortfield Hotel site development is to be distributed to the rest of East Devon...

The small 'fill-in' site afforded space for some affordable housing, however:

Although a comment asks why affordable housing was not provided:

Sidmouth Seagull inactive 

Sidmouth needs to be a "balanced community" and you need to provide social housing.  In Manor Road you have a terraced of community housing when they built Fortfield Lawn and Kenandy.  Also social housing was incorporated into the Knowle when the Council moved there.  I thought it was government guidelines that a ratio of property built had to be social/affordable homes.  That is why I was concerned that the Fortfield Hotel development was not incorporating any  - they offered elsewhere.

Essential services, care workers, etc. need staff to live locally - the problem is that wages in this area make it impossible for many to purchase homes of their own.  Private rental market are high, quite often people buy cheaper homes and use them to rent out.

10) The Town Council were asked in 2011 to consider naming the new building:
Councillors this week expressed the opinion and their desire to see the 31 dwelling complex dubbed Annie Leigh Browne Court in honour of the woman who handed the town the Byes.
Bosses at developer Zero C, which has welcomed suggestions, say they will take all opinions “very seriously” and will unveil the title before construction starts in April. 
The structure’s name won’t feature Fortfield, said managing director Kim Slowe.
Mr Slowe is considering five or six suggested names, including Sanditon, the title of Jane Austen’s last novel that has links to Sidmouth and Fortfield Terrace.
Name game over Sidmouth ‘Fortfield’ flats - News - Sidmouth Herald

11) There have recently been issues around the construction at the new site:
Drainage for new flats at Sanditon, Sidmouth | Sidmouth Independent News

12) The Fortfield Hotel had some history:

When it first opened in 1903, the Fortfield Hotel was described by the Sid Vale Association, as “a place of charm and atmosphere, of joys and pleasures well remembered in the hearts and minds of visitors and residents alike”. The hotel was an extension of an original building, the Red House.
View From Online - News from West Dorset, East Devon & South Somerset

This is what it looked like shortly before the fires:

Sidmouth Fortfield vision to be unveiled - News - Sidmouth Herald

And this is from its heyday:

Google Image Result for http://www.exeterfoundry.org.uk/customers/fortfield-hotel.jpg
Photo of Sidmouth, Fortfield Hotel 1907 - Francis Frith

Advert Museum - Fortfield Hotel, Sidmouth

The position of Fortfield Hotel behind Fortfield Terrace then...

Photo of Sidmouth, the Cricket Field and Fortfield Hotel c1955 - Francis Frith

... contrasts with the position of the new Sanditon apartments:

Sidmouth must ‘fight like hell’ for £1,5million - News - Sidmouth Herald

There are webpages devoted to images of the Hotel's past:
Fortfield Hotel - Past Remains
Sidmouth GP launches Fortfield Terrace history - What's on - Sidmouth Herald

And there are those who miss the old hotel:
Visitor upset at hotel’s fate - News - Sidmouth Herald

13) Lastly, a very bitter comment:

LeftField said...
Blame local businessmen? Only those who have fallen under the wider field of influence created by the collaboration of developers and speculators. Developers have been targeting East Devon aggressively for 7 years. Tourist beds have been lost at Lyme Bay Holiday Park ( now Tescos ), Seaton Heights Hotel ( derelict ), Stoneleigh Holiday Park ( partly derelict ), and of course the Fortfield Hotel which ended its days in a blaze of glory, just like the lighting of the olympic flame, as several small flames coalesced to create great spectacle. 
The owners of Stoneleigh Holiday Park and unlucky owner of the Fortfield both lived in Farnham, Surrey. No doubt they enjoyed the hospitality offered to them by The East Devon Business Forum and cllrs Brown and Diviani, and no doubt about the promises made ... how rich a place Sidmouth and Seaton would become with the money that would flow from these projects and subsequent s106 agreements. Not so.

Sidmouth will lose its tourist status, its accomodation, its green spaces, its jobs, its heretige.

Who cares ? not the Huge Squire, and most certainly not the avaricious individuals who skulk behind closed doors in the Knowle, or enjoy lavish lunches at The Jack In the Green with their shady friends.
And - Who Cares: Save Our Sidmouth

1 comment:

Audrey said...

Andrew Torjussen who owned The Fortfield Hotel in Sidmouth, also owns The Bishops Table in Farnham. After a planning application was refused he has suffered from, would you believe it, another fire :-

Bishops Hotel Blaze Drama

Thursday, 05 December 2013

A FIRE in an outbuilding of The Bishops Table Hotel sent thick black smoke billowing over Farnham on Wednesday.
The column of smoke was seen as far away as Badshot Lea after a small outbuilding in the West Street hotel’s grounds caught fire at around 3pm.
Two fire engines and police officers attended the scene, with firefighters trailing their hoses through the main 18th Century hotel building which didn't appear to be threatened by the blaze.
Pc Dave Woodrow was first on the scene after cycling from Gostrey Meadow and eye witnesses reported hearing explosions as the fire first took hold, although this was unconfirmed.
All content © of Farnham Herald unless stated otherwise.