'Premier plans will help town tourism'
TRADERS and residents have welcomed multi-million pound plans for a hotel which they say will boost a town's tourism.
But families will have to wait for a Premier Inn to open in Leek after the company confirmed no work will take place until November.
This week more than 150 residents gave their views on plans to convert the former Talbot pub in Ashbourne Road as designers put the finishing touches to the £4.5 million scheme.
The project – which will create about 30 full-time jobs – will see an extension at the rear of the building to accommodate 60 rooms along with a 57-space car park.
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The current building will also be renovated to include a reception area, lobby, bar and restaurant.
And the scheme has received the backing of traders who say the town needs a new hotel.
Marc Briand, aged 41, of Leek, who runs the gift shop Colloco in Sheep Market, said: "This is a really good thing for Leek as it will help the town build on its tourism.
"There needs to be more choice when it comes to accommodation in the area and I know that Alton Towers has always said people visiting there will go and stay in Stoke-on-Trent, which means we are missing out.
"Some people like the smaller family-run bed and breakfasts but this will mean greater choice for people coming to the town. It will certainly help the evening economy along with weekend business. If people stay over on a Saturday night they will be looking for something to do on the Sunday."
The Talbot closed in 2007 and residents say the scheme will breathe fresh life into a historic building which has become an eyesore.
Frank Bailey, aged 56, of Leek, who works as a coach driver, said: "A hotel would be a great addition for Leek and it will be good for the businesses in the town.
"The Talbot really needs a facelift as it is very close to the bus station and is one of the first buildings people see when they come into the town."
At the public consultation – held at the Foxlowe – residents could submit suggestions for the plans.
Urban designer Darren Price, who organised the session on behalf of Whitbread – the parent company of Premier Inn, said: "The turnout has been very good and we have had about 150 people come along.
"At the moment we are in the pre-planning stage and will submit an application in the next few weeks.
"People have been positive about the project. Leek is somewhere with a dearth of hotel accommodation and it is the sort of place people want to stay with both the Peak District and Alton Towers so close."
Nick Johnston, acquisitions manager for Whitbread, said: "Leek has been a target of Whitbread for a number of years.
"We wanted to get under the skin of Leek to find out more about the town and our research has shown there is a real demand for a hotel."
The firm will next submit a detailed planning application to Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, which will decide whether to give permission for the scheme.