Eight years ago, the YHA hostel in Brighton was one of 32 hostel closures announced in one of the most radical shake-up of recent years. Although several of those hostels were subsequently saved or transferred to the Enterprise scheme, Brighton YH closed its doors in October 2007. Ever since then, YHA have been looking for a replacement hostel in the popular South coast resort – and that search has finally borne fruit.
Yesterday, Brighton and Hove City Council granted planning permission for the conversion of the former Royal York Hotel into a 180-bed Youth Hostel. The Royal York is a Grade 2 listed building in a great location close to the seafront, the pier and the Royal Pavilion.
The forthcoming youth hostel will add a new chapter to a long history. Built in 1771 as a private residence, the building first became to a hotel in 1819, going on to host such distinguished guests as Charles Dickens and Benjamin Disraeli. It was converted to council offices in 1930 (including the town’s registry office for a while), and back into a hotel in 2006.
How have YHA conjured up the £4.5M needed to buy this splendid property? The answer is they haven’t. The building has been bought by a company called Development Securities Plc with whom YHA have signed a 100 year lease to operate the hostel. You can read some details of the deal in the Wall Street Journal.
Local reaction to the news has been mixed, if this story in local paper The Argus is any guide. Nick Head, former chairman of Visit Sussex, is quoted as saying “It’s not a good use for such an important and historic building [...] it would be a real shame for it to become a youth hostel.” Dare one suggest that, as manager of a rival establishment he’s afraid of the competition?
Fortunately, this skepticism did not extend to the councillors on the Planning Committee, who were glowing in their praise of the Association. Councillor Graham Cox, for example, saying:
I had a great time as a teenager through the YHA. It is a wonderful charitable organisation. It’s been an anomaly since Patcham Place closed that we don’t have a youth hostel. I think it’s great that we’ve got this and a real asset to the city
No announcement has yet been made on when the new hostel might be expected to open, I’ll pass on the news when I hear it.