Chains set their sights on Lakes but will character remain?

Those with long memories will recall the fuss when McDonald’s proposed opening a restaurant in Kendal.

There was also almost a sense of shock locally that such a high street name, more associated with big cities, would be opening in the ‘auld grey town’.

Times have moved on since then, although Costa Coffee opening at Bowness a few years back evoked a similar local reaction in some quarters.

News this week that budget hotel chain Premier Inn is wanting to open a 64-bedroom family hotel in a former University of Cumbria property on The Struggle has created a similar stir.

There are fears, probably justified, that such a hotel could undercut the prices offered by local bed and breakfast establishments in the town, particularly in winter months.

There are also some concerns that allowing ‘city’ brands such as Premier Inn to come in could harm the ‘character’ of the area.

And questions have been asked as to whether a big chain would spend its profits locally, like existing b&bs tend to do.

On the other side, the hotel will create jobs and having Premier Inn here, with its worldwide marketing reach, could draw more visitors from urban areas and also more overseas tourists to the Lake District.

There is a danger that people hang on a rosy image of the Lakes from the 1950s and 1960s, with fellwalkers visiting and always staying in local, friendly b&bs.

That type of accommodation is still hugely important but times change and there is a growing number of people who want the choice of a standardised - and possibly cheaper - type of room.

On the other hand, people are right to worry about the increasing homogeneity of the South Lakeland towns and villages.

If it goes too far the character that makes them so appealing will be lost.

There is no easy answer - only an increasing awareness that nothing stays the same forever.

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