NEW bidders are being sought for the contract to build a hotel on land next to the BIC.

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council has inherited Bournemouth borough's plan to construct a hotel on land it owns in Priory Road.

The procurement process for the original project – which would have seen the council borrow some £70 million to fund construction and then collect rent to pay it off – was halted in May following a legal challenge by other hospitality firms in the area.

Bill Cotton, corporate director for regeneration and economy at BCP, said the authority plans to invite new bids this year.

“We are currently undertaking market engagement to give the opportunity for potential bidders to find out more about the project," he said. "A formal tendering process will take place later in the year.”

Back in October Bournemouth council agreed a “streamlined” method of procuring developers – a cheaper tendering option requiring less in-depth work on the plans, based on the work already done.

Members agreed to a six to 12 month process at a cost of up to £60,000.

Then Councillor Philip Broadhead, cabinet member for economic growth, said the borough "recognised that wish that other interested parties may well want to be involved" and would "look at the funding options to see whether external parties may well be interested in funding, or whether the council still had the appetite to use this as a revenue-generating asset".

The site was gifted to the council by the South West regional development agency in 2004 on the proviso that a hotel be built there.

A proposal for a combined Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn Express facility was approved by the council in March last year.

However, a legal challenge, part of which focused on the council’s perceived lack of tendering to the wider market, was launched by Peel Hotels and Bespoke Hotels.

Concerns were raised about the council’s financial projections and that it was “declaring war” on the hotel sector by exploiting an unfair advantage, with private companies unable to borrow money at the same rates.

Cllr Broadhead called the challenge “spurious”.