Hotel Solutions completed a study in September 2018 for Wirral Council to identify the potential for hotel and visitor accommodation development across the Wirral. The study was commissioned from an investment perspective, with a view to accelerating hotel and visitor accommodation development in Wirral. The project commenced with a review of hotel and visitor accommodation supply and pipeline schemes, alongside an assessment of current accommodation performance, providing a baseline from which to assess future potential. A range of research modules were undertaken to assess the potential for growth in the hotel and visitor accommodation market, including stakeholder consultations, research and strategy reviews, an analysis of major projects and assessing the impact of forecasts in economic, employment and population growth.
Having identified the market potential, together with a review of national accommodation development trends and the degree these had been taken up on the Wirral, the study then identified gaps in provision by type and location, and went on to test hotel and visitor accommodation developer interest as well as assessing potential development sites, with a view to matching developer interest with best fit development opportunities.
We found immediate potential for budget hotel development in Birkenhead, and longer-term potential here for new hotels as the Birkenhead and Wirral Waters regeneration plans are progressed. We also found potential for the upgrading and development of existing hotels and guest houses, new pub accommodation, holiday cottages and lodges, touring caravan and camping sites, motorhome stopovers, camping pods and glamping.
Wirral has a number of challenges that the study sought to help overcome in identifying a role for the hotel and visitor accommodation sector within the wider visitor economy and strategies for economic development. It is a district of two halves – a very developed, industrial urban eastern coastline in need of major regeneration and with some major developments proposed and underway – and an affluent east coast and rural area that is heavily protected in terms of Green Belt planning policy and environmental designations. Our work drew on our experience elsewhere of developing visitor accommodation in sensitive landscapes, including National Parks and other Green Belt locations, to try to encourage greater flexibility in the application of planning policy to enable some of the types of visitor accommodation for which market potential has been identified to come forward. Our knowledge of innovative visitor accommodation product development across the UK also meant we could identify low impact forms of development that could be more acceptable in planning terms.
It was necessary for this study to take a long-term view about hotel and visitor accommodation potential, as part of the brief was to understand what scope there could be for hotels to form part of major regeneration schemes such as the huge Wirral Waters project. One important lesson for client groups to take on board is that hotels will not lead regeneration, they need to follow, once drivers of demand are in place. Our findings around potential are now being fed into masterplanning for some of the key sites and regeneration schemes.
The conclusion of our work was the preparation of a Visitor Accommodation Development Acceleration Plan for Wirral. It comprises six programmes of action designed to grow hotel and visitor accommodation demand; progress hotel development in Birkenhead; support other hotel development opportunities; encourage pub accommodation development; support guest house improvement; and progress appropriate visitor accommodation development in Wirral’s rural and coastal areas, as far as can be achieved in the context of Green Belt constraints.