STRUGGLING guest houses and bed and breakfasts should be helped before they reach the point of closure and are converted to houses, a councillor has urged.
Worthing planning committee approved the conversion of Queens Lodge and Tamara guest houses into dwellings last Wednesday – the latest in a string of similar applications.
But councillor James Doyle believes the council could do more to help, instead of being faced with the issue when it was too late to intervene.
He said: “It is not that we have to stop these changes happening.
“I’m concerned people are being forced to come to planning at a very late stage where they cannot carry on, but we haven’t done anything to see if we can help them to market it better.”
The committee heard from the owners of the Tamara Guest House, in Alexandra Road, who wanted to change their property into a house.
A combination of health issues, declining guest numbers and changing visitor expectations had contributed to the decision to call it a day.
Co-owner Christine McGaw said: “We have successfully run it for 21 years, but more recently the number of guests has declined, due principally to the lack of private facilities.
“I have lost a number of guests as we only have shared facilities.”
Queens Lodge Guest House, in Queen’s Road, will be converted into self-contained bedsits after councillors approved the prospective owner’s application.
There was ‘no interest’ from buyers for it to continue as a guest house, due to dwindling demand.
Committee chairman Joan Bradley said: “We have seen quite a few of these recently. It’s very sad in a way.
“I said last time people are looking for more. Personally, I go where it’s nice and cheap and cosy and warm, but there you go.”
While some have struggled, others have reported steady business.
Barbara Hews, of The Conifers, in Parkfield Road, said she had experienced a good start to the year but agreed the council could do more to promote tourism.
“There are still quite a few of us left but it didn’t help with the bowls moving and the closure of the tourism office is absolutely disgusting,” she said.
On the wider subject of tourism, Mr Doyle said the council did a good job with the resources it had but hoped a long-term strategy would be put in place.
“I was in the tourist information centre last year and some people were handed three leaflets for things to see in Brighton.
“We have so much to offer here and it’s really sad when we are sending people out of town.”
A Worthing Borough Council spokesman said the council did not believe the days of the B&B were numbered.
“The B&B still has a place in the tourism market, so long as those businesses provide what the market wants,” he said. “There will be some properties that can’t be adapted to the needs of the modern visitor, and these must take a view on their future. However, with tourism interest strong in the south east region, we foresee B&Bs continuing to play an incredibly important part in the town’s tourism prosperity.”