Furious town councillors want planning enforcers to be called in - if Premier Inn chiefs have not started building work by Easter.

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Whitbread PLC, which owns the hotel chain, said this week that work on a £5million, 60-room seafront hotel would not start until the ‘spring’, despite previously telling councillors in 2012 it would open by April.

Now there are fears that instead of this summer’s visitors being greeted by a new hotel on a prime beach-front location, all there will be is a boarded-up site, filled with the broken remains of the demolished Elizabeth Hall.

At the town council’s regeneration committee on Monday, Councillor Steve Wragg said: “The demolition phase ended a long time ago, and the time between demolition and work starting is getting is longer.

“They probably have planning permission for three years, but I don’t think it is acceptable for us to have to put up with that.

“I’m not saying that is their intention, but it happened with (the) Tesco (expansion) and the swimming pool (bowling alley).”

He called for the rubble, that was once the Elizabeth Hall, to be removed and added: “We should say to East Devon District Council that if work doesn’t start by Easter, we want enforcement action taken.

“I don’t think that’s unreasonable.”

Deputy mayor Bill Nash said it was ‘disappointing’ and called for the site to be turned into a free car park.

“We were told it would open by Easter and they are only now starting to look at tenders for the contractors,” he said.

A spokesman for Whitbread said: “Now…the weather forecast is better, we are negotiating the construction contract.

“Whitbread wants to get this absolutely right and so we have taken a little more time to develop the scheme so we can incorporate the latest enhanced Premier Inn room specification.

“We will be on site in the spring.”

A principal planning officer for East Devon District Council told the town council if work did start soon it would not be right to start enforcement proceedings.

He added: “Should the construction period slip considerably, then we will reconsider this position.”

A senior EDDC regeneration officer added: “Contractors should be appointed by the end of February.

“We are in the process of commissioning artwork, in conjunction with the Premier Inn, for the hoardings during the construction phase.”

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