PLANS for a new 132-room hotel at Southend Airport have been refused amid concerns it would create serious parking issues for residents.
The hotel proposal, on a staff car park to the north of Eastwoodbury Crescent and close to the existing Holiday Inn, had been earmarked for approval but was rejected during a meeting on Thursday night.
Councillors raised concerns that by reducing the number of existing parking spaces from 86 to 45 it would push more people to park on nearby streets.
These were concerns echoed in an objection from the council’s highways team.
However, the council’s planning department and the airport insisted there would be enough spaces to meet the demand and staff would be able to park in the airport’s long stay car park.
A representative from Southend Airport told the committee it does not “condone or disregard” people who are parking on the streets but said some people will “go out of their way not to pay for parking”.
He added this is an issue not just for airports but also shopping centres and railways stations.
In response to the comments, Tory councillor Kevin Buck said: “They can say they will allow people to use other car parks but they may then say it’s £50 a day for an employee who works behind a bar at a hotel.
“That is unsustainable and that will push parking back out to the streets.”
The council’s planning officers were unable to give any information about how much airport employees would be asked to pay at alternative car parks and stressed it was at the airport’s “discretion”.
Conservative Mark Flewitt, who represents the ward the airport is located in, said some of the details in the application are “shockingly poor”.
He added: “I view this as a Trojan horse. It is bringing something to our economy which is to be welcomed but on the other hand we are in uncertain times and this bring with it the threat of more nuisance parking.
“From the answers I’ve been hearing that this is a discretionary matter for the airport, and looking at how the airport has conducted itself over other controversial issues, this doesn’t give me confidence.”
He added is was “highly unusual” planning officers had recommended the plans be approved when highways had lodged an objection.
The proposal to refuse the application was from Labour councillor Daniel Cowan.
He said: “The airport may not condone street parking yet it is facilitating it by charging staff for parking. The holiday Inn uses that carpark as an overspill.
“The overspill car park is always busy with people who are parking up for the hotel or functions.
“Where are they going to go now? Where will airport staff go? Where will hotel staff go?
“I appreciate the airport believes they have answered this by saying we have parking in other places but that doesn’t cut the mustard.”
He added: “Staff of the airport, retail units and existing hotel already park on local roads. They will be joined by more airport staff and more hotel staff, along with those with cleaning contracts who can’t use public transport due to the times they are working.”
In a vote, ten voted in favour of refusal and six voted against.