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Plans to build a Travelodge in Sittingbourne are on hold after developer Bell Sittingbourne LLP calls in adminstration

By Hayley Robinson

Plans to open a Travelodge in the town centre are on hold after the developer called in administrators.

Bell Sittingbourne LLP was granted planning permission to build a 56-bedroom four-storey hotel and car park behind the Bell Centre in 2011 with work due to start the following February.

The development was then delayed after an application to downgrade how environmentally friendly the building would be from ‘very good’ to ‘good’ was rejected by Swale council’s planning committee in June 2012.

The proposed Sittingbourne Travelodge

A statement issued at the time by the agent behind the project – Ian Hale Planning and Designing Consultancy – described the project as “loss making”, with a negative value of £460,000.

It was estimated it would cost £3.1 million to build but “unforeseen abnormalities with the site” had resulted in additional costs.

It claimed the change to the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) rating would save about £60,000 on construction costs.

Permission was granted on appeal but work never started on the project, which was set to create 16 new jobs and add £1 million a year to the local economy through tourism.

Swale council headquarters in East Street, Sittingbourne. Stock picture.

Despite numerous attempts by the News Extra over the last nine months to find out what was going on with the site, it has finally been revealed the company due to carry out the building work on behalf of the chain went into administration last August.

It is now under the control of administrator Colin Wilson, partner at Opus Restructuring LLP.

Mr Wilson said: “There are two parties interested in it at the moment.

“One has been given exclusivity for a period of six weeks up until the end of May for due diligence work. At the end of it if they’re not interested then we will speak with the second.

“We’re hoping to have sold it in the next six months. When development would start I couldn’t say although I’m sure they would want to get on with it right away.”

When asked if the hotel could still be built by the new owner, he replied: “It’s possible the plans could still go ahead.”

There are hopes the Bell Centre will be bought in the next six months

Despite all the setbacks, Travelodge says it is still keen to open a hotel in Sittingbourne.

A spokesman for the firm said: “Unfortunately the owners of the site that Travelodge had identified have gone into receivership and we await clarification on what action the administrators will be taking.”

Bell Sittingbourne LLP was also granted permission in February 2011 for the erection of a four-storey building to be used as a medical centre with six flats above it, and an extension to the Wetherspoons pub to create an outdoor seating area. The proposal included the refurbishment of the existing shops.

In addition, outline planning permission was approved for a sheltered housing building with 49 flats and block of 14 flats.

However, the time frame to carry out the work for both projects has now lapsed.

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