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Fury over £9 a night hostel' plan

PUBLISHED: 16:35 29 April 2009 | UPDATED: 10:39 23 August 2010

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ANGRY protestors have confronted developers over plans to create a £9 a night hostel saying it breaches planning laws, writes Michael Adkins. Furious residents accused bosses of HFHA Group Ltd of a blatant disregard of planning regulations and law du

ANGRY protestors have confronted developers over plans to create a £9 a night 'hostel' saying it breaches planning laws, writes Michael Adkins.

Furious residents accused bosses of HFHA Group Ltd of 'a blatant disregard of planning regulations and law' during a protest outside Cygnet House, Windmill Street, Gravesend, on Saturday.

The £2.5 million building is being refurbished by the Bermondsey-based company as a budget hotel despite only having permission for a 60 room quality hotel. But developers said they were prepared to open next month without planning consent for changes to the scheme.

Gravesham Borough Council's legal advisors said it showed clear intent to carry out work in breach of planning regulations and it is now applying for an injuncton to halt the work.

Council leader Councillor Mike Snelling said: "In the light of such flagrant disregard for planning law, the council is taking the strongest action possible as it always would in such circumstances. No one should be under the impression that Gravesham Borough Council would fail to act to stop such unlawful development."

Residents in nearby streets have blasted the scheme, concerned about who it might attract to the area and the disregard for planning regulations. David Bond, of Sheppey Place, angrily confronted Dean D'eye, managing director of HFHA, and Dan Dennis, of Journeys, who will operate the facility. He fumed: "You can't just come here and do what you want. You can't ignore planning law and brush us aside." He was ushered away by other protestors, but added: "This part of the town centre is a conservation area. They have planning permission for a quality hotel and we were all in favour of that for the area and then we here they are planning to open a hostel. This is not on. I can't believe what I'm hearing."

Both Mr D'eye and Mr Dennis denied the plan was to create a 'hostel' despite advertising the facility as a hostel on their website, a statement that has now been removed.

Mr D'eye said: "We have tried for a quality hotel. Ramada, Travel Lodge, Premier Inn, Ibis have all turned us down. We are not creating a hostel. We have put an application in for an alternative internal layout and we will push ahead with opening. We will fight any High Court Injunction we must push ahead with opening."

He also told residents not opening could place the company in liquidation, resulting in cheers from the listening residents.

Former Gravesham Mayor Frank Gibson blasted the plan as 'absolutely outrageous' and called on the council to be tough on the infringement of planning law.

A spokesperson for HFHA said: "Government guidance states clearly that "it is not an offence to carry out development without first obtaining any planning permission required for it". The fact that a development may be unauthorised is not a reason in itself to take enforcement action."

michael.adkins@archant.co.uk

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