COUNCILLORS have backed plans to build a hotel in Witney and hope it will help enhance tourism in West Oxfordshire.

District council members granted planning permission for the 57-bedroom Premier Inn hotel, in Ducklington Lane, at a lowlands area planning sub-committee.

The 2,510 sq ft hotel will create 30 jobs and bring more than 7,000 customers a year to Witney, said Premier Inn's owner Whitbread.

But planning officers have been given delegated powers to finally approve the scheme after reaching agreement about conserving protected trees on the site and developer funding for community projects.

The council’s area planning manager Phil Shaw said: “The key issue is related to the trees.There is a particularly fine walnut tree along Ducklington Lane, which provides screening of Lidl.

“By pushing the car park spaces into the root protection area, it is putting pressure on what is an important tree.”

He suggested the two-storey elevation along Ducklington Lane could be increased in height to move the hotel away from the protected trees.

But he said: “We believe it is a good site for a hotel and, given tourism is so important for the district, it's an opportunity we should grab hold of.”

Premier Inn has already agreed to move an outside seating area to the front of the building to alleviate concerns about possible antisocial behaviour.

Witney councillor Richard Langridge said: “ I am delighted to see the application come forward.

"I think it is a much-needed facility and asset to Witney that can only enhance the tourism offer we provide.

“On the subject of trees, I applaud the officers for looking to protect them, but I also think people before trees.”

Sub-committee members Duncan Enright and Maxine Crossland both raised concerns about the appearance of the building.

Mr Enright said: "This looks like Center Parcs, rather than Witney."

But Mr Shaw said he would hold discussions with Premier Inns to ask the firm to "calm it down a bit".

In its comments on the application, Witney Town Council said it strongly objected to the hotel, because of its likely impact on traffic levels in Ducklington Lane.

It said: “It will generate more traffic problems in an already congested area. The pedestrian crossing is well used, especially by local schoolchildren, and there has already been a fatality in this area.”

But Oxfordshire County Council's highways department said it considered that, with a contribution from the hotel chain towards road improvements, the scheme would be acceptable.