Report of the Chief Planning Officer and Development Director.
The Committee considered a report of the Chief Planning Officer and Development Director seeking approval for the change of use of part ground floor from betting office (sui generis) to a mix of restaurant and drinking establishment (sui generis) (110sq.m) and works comprising:
(i) replacement of shopfront on Crutched Friars;
(ii) replacement of first floor windows on Crutched Friars and Coopers Row;
(iii) installation of first floor window on Savage Gardens;
(iv) replacement of first floor rear doors and windows fronting rear yard with new doors and glazing under the arches and installation of an external green screen;
(v) replacement of door and installation of windows to the rear at ground floor;
(vi) extension of external walkway on first floor rear elevation and replacement of external stairs for use as a means of escape;
(vii) installation of a fence between the external walkway and neighbouring residential properties; and
(viii) replacement of extract flue on rear elevation.
The Chief Planning Officer also highlighted that some amended wording for Conditions 4, 5, 8 and 9 had been tabled.
Members were informed that the application concerned a site situated to the east of the City, the majority of which was underneath railway arches. As some Members had alluded to at the opening of the meeting, under Item 2, it was correct to say that Planning and Licensing considerations were quite separate although many of the planning conditions proposed mirrored those already set by Licensing. The Chief Planning Officer and Development Director confirmed that the first floor use was already sui generis a restaurant/bar area and that the proposed changes sought to remove access to the premises from the nearby residential area and improve access for all.
The Chair thanked the Chief Planning Officer and Development Director for their introduction, introduced the registered objector and invited her to address the Committee.
Jayne Evans introduced herself as a full time mother and local resident to the site. Ms Evans expressed concerns around the proposed timber clad fencing, gate and fire escape to the rear of the premises which directly adjoined residential bedrooms. She commented on the fact that there were also communal refuse bins situated directly underneath this wooden structure which could have severe consequences in terms of smoke and toxic fumes for the residents directly above if a fire were to break out within the bins. Ms Evans stated that she had seen no reference to any fire assessment having been carried out within the documents presented.
Ms Evans went on to speak of concerns around loss of light, stating that the only windows were to the rear aspect of residential properties here with no other sources of natural light. Ms Evans also referred to the proposed green screen to conceal the windows, for which retrospective planning permission was now being sought, and which were situated just feet away from her and other residents’ homes.
A Member questioned whether Ms Evans’ main concerns were around the rear access to the building and any resulting loss of light. She further questioned whether there were any concerns around the proposed change of use of the premises from a betting shop to a bar/restaurant. Ms Evans confirmed that she had no concerns around the proposed change of use but was concerned about safety around the rear access and noise emitting from the walkway here.
A Member stated that, following concerns around the use of the rear courtyard raised by the Licensing Hearing Panel for this premises, this was now to be utilised for emergency access only. He therefore questioned what noise Ms Evans would anticipate from here. Ms Evans reiterated that the rear access was just feet away from nearby residential windows and that her main concern was around this being a fire hazard. Another Member probed whether there was concern as to the proposed walkway here being used as a smoking area.
At this point, the Chair sought approval from the Committee to continue the meeting beyond two hours from the appointed time for the start of the meeting, in accordance with Standing Order 40, and this was agreed.
A Member questioned whether the noise of the existing plant was an issue for residents. Ms Evans stated that it was generally not an issue. She added that residents also endured limited noise from the nearby railway but noted that this was time limited.
The Chair invited those speaking in favour of the application to address the Committee. The Applicant, Mr Anthony Thomas, spoke to provide Members with a history of the current site. He reorted that the Savage Garndens entrance to the first floor restaurant and bar area had been in existence since 1969 and, to the best of his knowledge, the premises had always had the same use. The application for use of the current ground floor Ladbrooks site had been granted in 1962. In 2017, the applicant had taken the lease from network rail and had been granted a licence that same year with no objections. Unfortunately, a licence review followed and the operation was therefore yet to get underway since 2017.
Mr Thomas clarified that the main objective of this application as to relocate the entrance to the premises. He added that the rear yard area had always been part of the unit and that the applicant had no intention to use this area aside from for deliveries, staff access only and as a means of fire escape. He went on to state that a rear staircase was already in existence and that the applicant now sought to make this structure compliant. He added that, if desired, this structure could be moved away from the wall.
Mr Thomas reported that the windows referred to by the objector were currently obscured. He added that his premises had no plant and that existing plant belonged to Bierschenke who currently occupied the basement below all three existing units.
The Chair thanked Mr Thomas for his contributions and invited questions from Members.
A Member questioned whether the fire brigade had been consulted on the proposals given the concerns raised around fire safety. Mr Thomas responded to state that this consultation would take place at the appropriate time and that the applicant would work to make the rear access compliant.
A Member commented on what were, in his view, ambitious plans and questioned how the applicant proposed to stop staff use of the yard for smoking for example. The applicant reported that the operator ran 46 units across London, many of which were often closely neighboured by residential properties. They were therefore not unfamiliar with managing such situations. He added that any staff using the yard inappropriately would face disciplinary action.
A Member stated that the Committee had already heard that the proposed change of use was of no concern to residents. To her mind, the issue here had always been around use of the rear yard and the intrusion of privacy caused by the installation of the window arches. She noted that, prior to the installation of these, there had been a blank wall in place which had never caused any concern to residents previously. She went on to state that it was fair to say that many of the works now applied for had already been carried out and had always been contentious.
Mr Thomas drew Members’ attention to a photograph depicting what had been inherited by the applicant. He added that this was not, as the Member suggested a solid wall and had always been a historic access point. He added that the applicant felt that the previous offering was unattractive.
The Member went on to question the proposed screenage and whether it was necessary for this to be fixed to the wall as this was also causing concern to residents. Mr Thomas reiterated that the staircase itself did not have to be fixed to the wall. The Member went on to highlight that the proposed screening/fencing would effectively screen off residential bedroom windows and questioned whether the applicant might instead consider the use of frosted glass or the scaling back of this entirely.
Mr Thomas clarified that planning consent would not be required for a reconfiguration of the premises. He added that use of the unit had not, historically, been conditioned. However, in an attempt to improve the overall impact of the premises, the applicant was now seeking to move the entrance to the front, away from residential properties, and to also make various changes to the rear in an attempt to ‘mop up’ all historic changes and issues.
A Member questioned whether works at 26A Savage Gardens had commenced without prior approval and had to be subsequently halted. Mr Thomas reported that on of the windows referred to was a historic opening and confirmed that no demolition had taken place on site.
A Member questioned whether the fact that restaurant users would be able to see the outside space from the rear windows installed would incentivise its usage. She also questioned privacy around this and whether the applicant would consider that the installation of frosted glass here would be effective and proportionate. The applicant commented that this had already been considered but not pursued. He underlined the need to strike a balance here and reminded the Committee that usage of these units pre-dated any nearby residential use. Mr Thomas added that conditions requiring double glazing would sufficiently limit any noise nuisance to residents from inside the premises.
The Chair asked that Members now move to debate the application.
A Member who had also sat on the Licensing Hearing for this premises and was therefore well aware of its history, praised officers for heavily matching the licensing conditions imposed within their proposed planning conditions. He added that he failed to see how residents’ concerns had not been addressed by the applicant and, for that reason, would be supporting the application.
Another Member reiterated that residential concerns around noise and loss of privacy, particularly from bedroom windows situated just feet away, remained. This, in her view, had been caused by the removal of what had appeared to be a solid wall structure. She went on to state that she was concerned to hear that planning permission was being sought retrospectively for some of the works. The Member also questioned why no assessment as to the likely impact on daylight/sunlight had been carried out given that the proposed screenage would clearly affect this for some. She stated that the easiest compromise here would be to ensure that rear windows were frosted if there were no proposals to reinstate a more solid structure. The Member concluded by highlighting that the Fire Brigade may still object to the proposals around screening which would lead to more issues around loss of privacy. She stated that, in her view, the application was lacking and prompted more questions than answers.
A Member spoke to suggest that the use of frosted glass was not always a good technical solution but that other options existed that would have the same effect.
A Member stated that she understood and shared residential concerns and also felt that many questions were unanswered.
Another Member, who had also been involved with this premises as Licensing level, stated that he was of the opinion that the applicant had really gone the extra mile in terms of addressing concerns. He added that certain issues raised by Members during debate were not for this Committee and that they could not, for example, second guess what the views of the Fire Brigade may be. He added that use of the back yard area was already heavily conditioned and that he was fully supportive of the application.
Another Member also spoke in support of the proposals. He reported that he had attended a site visit here last week and felt that the works carried out had already improved the courtyard area and therefore the value of the newer surrounding residential units. He agreed that the limitations as to how the rear area could be used were clear.
A Member revisited the issue of the rear windows and questioned whether a compromise might be reached here that would satisfy all parties.
Having listened to the arguments advanced by Members, the Chair suggested that, if Members were minded to support the application, a condition requiring appropriate treatment of the rear windows could be added. He commented that he would also be keen to see a condition around the need for the applicant to self-certify that their plant ventilation was compliant on an annual basis included.
With the addition of these two conditions, Members proceeded to vote on the recommendations, with 26 Members voting in favour of the recommendation and 1 Member voting against the recommendation. There were no abstentions.
RESOLVED – That, with the addition of two conditions around the need to appropriately treat the rear windows to the premises and for the applicant to self-certify, on an annual basis, that their plant ventilation was compliant, planning permission be granted for the above proposal in accordance with the details set out in the attached and tabled schedules.