Plans for a new hotel just off Brighton seafront have been approved, with councillors saying that it would improve the look of the area.
The proposed building would replace the conference and exhibition space at the back of the Metropole hotel.
But the new nine-storey hotel would retain the grade II listed façade at 31-32 Cannon Place, by the corner of St Margaret’s Place.
The owner of the Metropole site, Topland, wants to build a nine-storey hotel with 221 bedrooms just as staycations look likely to boom.
Topland is expected to lease the new Cannon Place Hotel to an Irish called Dalata for 35 years while Hilton Hotels will continue to run the Metropole.
At a virtual Planning Committee meeting, Conservative councillor Carol Theobald said that exhibition space would be lost even though conferences sometimes needed more space than the Brighton Centre could offer.
But, she was told, the space was last used in 2018, and Brighton and Hove City Council’s tourism team did not feel that it would affect Brighton’s ability to host large conferences.
She said: “It’s an improvement. It looks very nice – and the glass front is so much nicer than the scruffy area.
“I’m pleased to see the façade kept from Cannon Place and St Margaret’s Place. It’s the type of architecture I really like.”
Labour councillor Nick Childs backed the scheme saying that the area was a “horrible eyesore”.
One of the conditions of the planning permission requires Topland to spend £50,000 on public art.
Green councillor Sue Shanks said that the money could be spent on improving the seafront railings but independent councillor Tony Janio said that it should be spent on original artwork.
He said: “Anyone putting money into a hotel in the current climate must have faith in the city.
“On the public art, I will go to back to what Churchill said during the war when someone said: ‘Tell me Prime Minister, why are you still spending money on art?’ And he said: ‘What are we fighting for?’
“I wouldn’t like to see (the money spent on) railings and things the council should be spending money on.
“I’d like to see a bonkers piece of art down there so when people walk by from Churchill Square they think: ‘Whoa! Isn’t that unusual. This is why we’ve come to Brighton and Hove.’”
Independent councillor Bridget Fishleigh was the only Planning Committee member to vote against the scheme.
She welcomed the investment in Brighton but was disappointed with the design, saying: “At some point we are going to have to start demanding higher design values from developers.
“I know this is opposite a car park but it is a prime almost seafront site behind two iconic hotels that is visible to millions of visitors and residents walking along our seafront promenade.”
Councillor Fishleigh said that the proposed hotel was a flat white building with rectangular windows, without bays or balconies, and she believed that it should be something more beautiful.
Councillors voted nine to one in favour of the plans.
Green councillor Leo Littman, who chairs the Planning Committee, said: “That area is a bit of an embarrassment. In this case, what is being proposed is a significant enhancement and I support it.”
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