CAMPAIGNERS opposing plans by Britain's biggest hotel chain to build in Britain's smallest city say that a Premier Inn will severely damage the economy, social fabric and unique character of St Davids and that the land should be used for housing instead.

Last Friday Mill Bay Homes, Pembrokeshire Housing Association (PHA), Swangate Developments and Whitbread, the parent company of Premier Inn, began a statutory consultation into plans to build 70 homes, 38 of which will be affordable properties, and a 63 bedroom Premier Inn at Glasfryn Road, St Davids.

Plans for the area have been mired in controversy since the hotel giant came on board last spring. More than 5,000 people have signed a petition against the proposed Premier Inn and a packed public meeting voted a resounding no to the hotel's involvement in the Glasfryn scheme.

The St Davids Community Land Trust, which initially planned to develop some of the housing and use revenue raised to build a swimming pool for the city, withdrew from the scheme last summer. It has been replaced in the scheme by Mill Bay Homes, part of Pembrokeshire Housing.

The developers say that the scheme will provide much-needed affordable housing on the St Davids Peninsula. More than 50% of the homes proposed at Glasfryn Road are affordable homes, double the target for the site,

A number of the for-sale properties will also be offered as shared ownership homes, helping to make them more affordable to buyers.

"We also propose to explore the possibility of offering local residents, or individuals with a connection to the local area, the first opportunity to buy the for-sale properties when the development is marketed," said Matthew Owens, operations manager at Mill Bay Homes.

The developers also say the 63 room Premier Inn will generate 20 full time jobs and attract 40,000 guests throughout the year, anticipated to spend an additional £1.5 million per year in the local economy.

However the City's No to Premier Inn group (NOPI) said the hotel would be three times bigger than any other in the city and would severely damage the economy, social fabric and unique character of St Davids.

"The hotel will destroy the livelihoods of local families who depend on the B&B business to survive," said a spokesman. "It will be the largest in the UK per capita of the local population."

Campaigners say the hotel will "tarnish the city's skyline" and add to congestion and pollution, trucking in all its supplies rather than using local suppliers.

They said the land used by the hotel could instead be used for affordable housing, built by the community for the community,by the St Davids Peninsular Community Land Trust.

"Such a large scale, corporate development goes totally against the National Parks key aim of 'protecting and conserving the unique and special landscape' of this area," said the spokesman.

The statutory consultation will run until Monday, January 8, 2018. During this time the planning application documents will be available to view on the website.

Following the submission of the planning application early next year, the National Park Authority will also consult on the development.

A final decision on the proposed development is expected in spring or summer next year.