Premier Inn Exmouth

tim todd made this Rhyddid Gwybodaeth request to East Devon District Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

East Devon District Council Nid oedd gan y wybodaeth y gofynnwyd amdani.

Dear East Devon District Council,

Background.
I would trust that in order for decision makers to have a clear and balanced view of the potential consequences of any regeneration development, that they would be provided with information, by officers and any agents, on both the anticipated positive benefits (pros) and also any potential negative elements (cons) that may pertain to any such development.

In previous FOIs EDDC have addressed the background to the positive aspects of the Exmouth Premier Inn that had been expressed by council and various council members. That Exmouth’s Premier Inn is highly successful for Whitebread is not in doubt, and as is evident from Trip Advisor many visitors enjoy it too. But has it been all good news or has there been any downside following the development, has it met the expectations of council and residents in terms of its overall effect upon Exmouth?

To better understand the full considerations given by EDDC to their choice of Whitebread's Premier Inn for Exmouth, and to help judge the consequences as a whole, I would ask for information about any potentially negative aspects that EDDC that may have been considered before arriving at their decision to sell to Whitebread, and any which may have come to notice since it started operating.

For example, whilst we were told that the development would lead to 50 new jobs, (a welcome benefit), do the 50 still exist? Further, did council consider that any jobs in the existing hotel accommodation sector elsewhere in Exmouth might be lost and thus reduce the net job benefit? Did council enquire as to whether Whitebread use their own or national food and supplies, or whether they purchased their requirements locally? Similarly, in respect of maintenance, do they use their own or national providers of local services?

Request.
Under the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act and The Environmental Regulations, I firstly wish to be advised as what information you hold on the potentially negative aspects of a Premier Inn on the Elizabeth Hall site at Exmouth, factors that you took account of in your deliberations prior to the sale to Whietbread.
Further, what information does council hold on any negative aspects that may have been discovered following the opening of the Premier Inn in 2015.
In addition and more specifically:
1 What ‘cons’ were identified by council or its agents JLL during the pre-sale process?
2. Have any ‘cons’ been identified following the opening?
3. Of the 50 jobs promised how many were delivered in the first instance and how many still exist ? (Please clarify the breakdown in terms of whether they are full time or part time and give FT equivalents for both?)
4 How many jobs went to local people (how was local defined?) and how many local people are currently employed?
5. What thought was given to the effect on pre-existing B&B and hotel accommodation, and what checks have been made as to any effect on them post Premier Inn? Have any closed?
6. Did council enquire as to where Whitebread bought the food and other goods necessary for their operation, if so where? Any local (east Devon) suppliers?
7. Did council enquire as to whom Whitebread used for their maintenance work, if so whom? (local or otherwise)
8. Premier Inn’s website states that limited parking is available on site. Has council ascertained the additional impact on local public parking by those guests who cannot use the hotel car park? (problems are mentioned in several Trip Advisor comments)
9. Budget chains like Premier Inn and Travelodge are usually associated with city centre locations and attracting mostly overnight visitors (who spend little ocally) rather than families on holiday who do spend out of the hotel. Were enquiries made of Premier Inn before the sale as to their anticipated client profile and do you have any information from the owners as to the present client profile that has been established in practice? )
10 The Premier Inn was to include a meeting room that would serve to replace the Elizabeth Hall meeting facilities. To what extent are their meeting rooms meeting that promise, can council say if they are they being booked regularly by local groups?

In those cases where negative, or potentially negative elements were identified and formed part of the discussion and decision making, please provide references and/or copies of the relevant record.

Thank you

T Todd

East Devon District Council

Thank you for submitting a request for information. We will respond to your request as quickly as possible, within the 20 working day statutory deadline under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

For updates on this case, please quote your unique reference number 101000837788 .

---------------------------------------
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East Devon District Council
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East Devon District Council

Dear Mr Todd,

Thank you for your request for information. I would point out that some of your questions go beyond simply asking for information we hold and ask for explanation / clarification as opposed to specifically for information. Accordingly, please find our response below.

Under the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act and The Environmental Regulations, I firstly wish to be advised as what information you hold on the potentially negative aspects of a Premier Inn on the Elizabeth Hall site at Exmouth, factors that you took account of in your deliberations prior to the sale to Whitbread ? No information held.

Further, what information does council hold on any negative aspects that may have been discovered following the opening of the Premier Inn in 2015 ? No information held.

In addition and more specifically:
1 What 'cons' were identified by council or its agents JLL during the pre-sale process? ? No information held.
2. Have any 'cons' been identified following the opening? ? No information held.
3. Of the 50 jobs promised how many were delivered in the first instance and how many still exist? (Please clarify the breakdown in terms of whether they are full time or part time and give FT equivalents for both?) ? No information held. You may wish to refer this part of your request to Whitbread.
4 How many jobs went to local people (how was local defined?) and how many local people are currently employed? ? No information held. You may wish to refer this part of your request to Whitbread.
5. What thought was given to the effect on pre-existing B&B and hotel accommodation, and what checks have been made as to any effect on them post Premier Inn? Have any closed? ? Outside of an assessment in the report to planning committee (available through our website) no information is held.
6. Did council enquire as to where Whitbread bought the food and other goods necessary for their operation, if so where? Any local (east Devon) suppliers? ? No information held.
7. Did council enquire as to whom Whitbread used for their maintenance work, if so whom? (local or otherwise) ? No information held.
8. Premier Inn's website states that limited parking is available on site. Has council ascertained the additional impact on local public parking by those guests who cannot use the hotel car park? (problems are mentioned in several Trip Advisor comments) ? No information held.
9. Budget chains like Premier Inn and Travelodge are usually associated with city centre locations and attracting mostly overnight visitors (who spend little locally) rather than families on holiday who do spend out of the hotel. Were enquiries made of Premier Inn before the sale as to their anticipated client profile and do you have any information from the owners as to the present client profile that has been established in practice?) ? No information held. You may wish to refer this part of your request to Whitbread.
10. The Premier Inn was to include a meeting room that would serve to replace the Elizabeth Hall meeting facilities. To what extent are their meeting rooms meeting that promise, can council say if they are they being booked regularly by local groups? ? No information held. You may wish to refer this part of your request to Whitbread.

In those cases where negative, or potentially negative elements were identified and formed part of the discussion and decision making, please provide references and/or copies of the relevant record.

I hope this information is helpful but, if you feel dissatisfied with the way we have responded to your request, please contact our Monitoring Officer, Mr Henry Gordon Lennox, to request an internal review at [email address]

You may also approach the Information Commissioner for advice at www.ico.org.uk

Regards

Information and Complaints Team
EDDC

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Gadawodd tim todd anodiad ()

1.19 working days to say little more than 'no information held'. EDDC should be aware that FOI requests should be dealth with promptly, and not more than 20 working days. This appears to fall well short of 'promptly'.
2. Previous FOI about evidence to support the claims of Premier in being a success met like replies, 'no information held'. Rather worrying that EDDC on their own admission do not know the positive benefits or negative consequences of one of their flagship developments! Should be born in mind when and wherever the next Preimier Inn is proposed.
EDDC should also know that the liokes of Whitebread are not subject to the FOI Act.

Gadawodd ronmetcalfe anodiad ()

Interesting that there is "no information" on the numbers of staff or impact of the Premier Inn. Small point, I know, but Richard Cohen on 26 August 2018 is quoted on Devon Live talking about the Premier Inn supplying information which I would assume he had on record somewhere to be able to quote to a newspaper. He said
"The Premier Inn, for instance, has brought people into the area. There were initial concerns from the Chamber of Commerce that it would take trade away from the B&Bs and hotels, but that hasn’t happened. A national chain in the town has only been a good thing. Even if it isn’t full every night, it has brought 40 jobs, 60 rooms and hundreds of thousands of pounds into the town that wasn’t there before."
Tim, I don't believe what you received was truly freedom of information.

Gadawodd tim todd anodiad ()

Ron

Thank you for this helpful information that I have now copied from DevonLive website. I will follow it up with a request for a review and perhaps a complaint to ICO.
I also notice that in response to and FOI from someone about the Drill Hall in Sidmouth, EDDC said they had no information about any reports on the property yet it seems to have been the case that one such a report was mentioned in a council meeting not long beforehand, something they admitted and put down to a simple mistake. Looks like they are making rather too many mistakes.

Gadawodd ronmetcalfe anodiad ()

CORRECTION - Richard Cohen is not a barrister by training - that is his colleague, Henry Gordon Lennox! Nonetheless, the point that he must have information to back up his statements still remains.

Gadawodd ronmetcalfe anodiad ()

Tim - glad you found the information useful. Anyone who can authoritatively and confidently say to a newspaper / website (in a piece likely initiated by EDDC) that "trade has not been taken away from other B&B's and hotels", "only been a good thing", "has brought 60 jobs" and "brought thousands of funds into the town" must be speaking from some information. As Mr Cohen is a barrister by training he will undoubtedly have evidential information to back up these statements presented as facts.

Dear East Devon District Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of East Devon District Council's handling of my FOI request 'Premier Inn Exmouth'.

I have a number of complaints about the way in which EDDC have handled this request.

1. In the first instance you advise that 'no information is held' on the question relating to jobs at The Premier Inn. Following publication of your reply on the Whatdotheyknow.com website, my attention has been drawn to the fact that on 28th August, DevonLive published a report on the Exmouth Seafront and it included a comment from Richard Cohen that the Premier Inn has brought 40 jobs. He also made comments about concerns about trade being taken away from existing B&B's but that, apparently hasn't happened. I attach, at the end of this request, the relevant comments from the DevonLive website a. How can you hold no information yet your Deputy CEO gives a statement to the press using some of the information sought and that you claim not to have? What else does he know that should have been in your answer? How does Mr Cohen know that there has been no negative effect upon B&Bs? I assume it is not a made up comment!

2. In answer to my question 5, you wrote "Outside of an assessment in the report to planning committee (available through our website)" before adding ‘no information is held'. You do not give a link or website reference for the source of said assessment though you must have had it to hand. Using the search term "Premier Inn Esplanade Exmouth EX8 2AZ " on your planning website search page turns up three references none of which contain the information to which you refer. I consider that the absence of a valid link, especially combined with the lack of adequate functionality in your website planning search facility, to amount to an example of obstruction and a failure to provide information you held, something that should also be brought to the attention of the ICO.

3. The FOI Act places an obligation upon an authority to respond to a request promptly in the first instance, and then within a maximum 20 working days. By my calculation you took 19 working days to say little more than you hold no information. I think that this is one of many requests where you seem to have repeatedly failed to respond promptly in accordance with the Act and it is a further matter that should be drawn to the attention of the ICO.

4. As at least two of the 'no information held' replies are inaccurate, I invite you to reconsider all like responses to check their validity before I pass this to the ICO.

I note that this is the second instance in a short period of time in which an FOI response from EDDC has been to the effect that no information is held, yet it has become quite apparent from comments from other EDDC staff that this was not so, that information was held but not provided.

The relevant information as to Mr Cohen's comments on the DevonLive website is as follows. (It can be found via this link https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-new...) :-
"A year on from the closure of the Fun Park, Mr Cohen said that he was happy that the council made the right decision to close it.
He said: “We understand that to close an established leisure operator is not something that we want to do lightly, but it was important to move forward and make the change. It definitely has not undermined Exmouth seafront and the offer it has and it was time for a fresh look.
“Visitor numbers to the town were falling and the average visitor spend in Exmouth was half the average in Devon. This shortfall showed that there needed to be other things to do in the town.
“Towns needs to evolve over time and not to be fearful of change. The Premier Inn, for instance, has brought people into the area. There were initial concerns from the Chamber of Commerce that it would take trade away from the B&Bs and hotels, but that hasn’t happened. A national chain in the town has only been a good thing. Even if it isn’t full every night, it has brought 40 jobs, 60 rooms and hundreds of thousands of pounds into the town that wasn’t there before.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/p...

Yours faithfully,

T Todd

East Devon District Council

Good afternoon Mr Todd

Thank you for your recent email. I am sorry you feel dissatisfied with our response to your request under the Freedom of Information Act. I am writing to confirm that your request for an internal review has been logged and that our Monitoring Officer, Mr Henry Gordon Lennox, will respond to you within 20 working days of this acknowledgement.

In the meantime, if you need to contact us about your request for a review, please quote ref: 843830

Regards

Information and Complaints Team
EDDC

www.eastdevon.gov.uk

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Henry Gordon Lennox, East Devon District Council

Mr Todd

 

I am sorry you feel dissatisfied with our response to your request for
information. I have reviewed your request and the information provided and
respond to your four numbered points as below:

 

1. In the first instance you advise that 'no information is held' on the
question relating to jobs at The Premier Inn.  Following publication of
your reply on the Whatdotheyknow.com website, my attention has been drawn
to the fact that on  28th August, DevonLive published a report on the
Exmouth Seafront and it included a comment from Richard Cohen that the
Premier Inn  has brought 40 jobs. He also made comments about concerns
about trade being taken away from existing B&B's but that, apparently 
hasn't happened. I attach, at the end of this request,  the relevant
comments from the  DevonLive website a.  How can you hold no information
yet your Deputy CEO gives a statement to the press using some of the
information sought and  that you claim not to have? What else does he know
that should have been in your answer?  How does Mr Cohen know that there
has been no negative effect upon B&Bs? I assume it is not a made up
comment!

The comments made by Mr Cohen reflected conversations he had had with
Premier Inn and with other organisations such as the Chamber of Commerce.
This was verbal contact only and the council holds no information relating
to jobs at Premier Inn nor on its relative pros and cons. You were
referred, in our previous response, to the planning documents for this
application where the merits of the application were considered and the
intended numbers of jobs created also cited. There is a link to these
documents below. If you open the document called “Committee Report” and
scroll to pages 15 and 16, there is specific reference to job creation.

[1]http://planningapps.eastdevon.gov.uk/Pla...

 

2. In answer to my question 5, you wrote  "Outside of an assessment in the
report to planning committee (available through our website)"  before
adding ‘no information is held'.  You do not give a link or website 
reference for the  source of said assessment though you must have had it
to hand. Using the search term  "Premier Inn Esplanade Exmouth EX8 2AZ "
on your planning website search page turns up three references none of
which contain the information to which you refer.  I consider that the
absence of a valid link, especially combined with the lack of adequate
functionality in your website planning search facility, to amount to an
example of obstruction and a failure to provide information you held,
something that should also be brought to the attention of the ICO.
I am sorry if you could not locate the relevant planning application
online. A link to the application is here
[2]http://planningapps.eastdevon.gov.uk/Pla...
The committee report for this application deals specifically with
objections based upon a potential negative impact on existing hotels and
businesses within the town and also points out that planning permission
cannot be refused on the basis of the impact on other businesses. Pages
10, 15, 16, 20 and 21 refer.

 

3. The FOI Act places an obligation upon an authority to respond to a
request promptly in the first instance, and then within a maximum 20
working days. By my calculation you took 19 working days to say little
more than you hold no information.  I think that this is one of many
requests where you seem  to have repeatedly failed to respond promptly in
accordance with the Act and it is a further matter that should be drawn to
the attention of the ICO.
Your response was provided within the relevant statutory deadline.

 

4. As at least two of the 'no information held' replies are inaccurate, I
invite you to reconsider all like responses to check their validity before
I pass this to the ICO.
As above, the responses previously given, where we have stated that
information is not held, are an accurate reflection of our position.

 

I hope this response is helpful but, if you remain dissatisfied, you have
the right to refer matters to the Information Commissioner at
[3]www.ico.org.uk

 

Yours sincerely,

 

HENRY GORDON LENNOX

 

Strategic Lead (Governance and Licensing)

East Devon District Council

Tel: 01395 517401

Ext: 2601

Email: [4][email address]

 

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Gadawodd tim todd anodiad ()

Yes dear reader, it is unbelievable isn't it!