Whetherspoon’s: The Society’s objection

47 & 48 St Thomas Street; change of use to public house (Use Class A4) with wildlife & pub gardens; shop front alterations; fenestration alterations to include rear doors & louvre; kitchen extraction; jumbrella.  OBJECTION

The Lymington Society strongly urges you to reject this application. We welcomed the Development Control Committee’s decision to refuse the previous application 95473 in September 2010 and we consider that the additional information in the current application offers little new evidence.

 The new application can’t change the finding that the proposed change of use is incompatible with existing uses at adjacent sites. If implemented, the proposal would carry serious risks for the balance and vitality of the High Street. The proposal is therefore incompatible with Policies CS5, CS1, CS2, CS3 and CS24 of the Core Strategy and saved policies DW-E23 and BU-TC4 of the superseded Local Plan and with the objectives and policies of PPS5 Planning for the Historic Environment.

The LPA has already determined that the proposed change of use of the application premises is incompatible with the existing use of adjacent premises. Specifically, the Development Control Committee refused the previous application because the location of the site was in conflict with Core Strategy Policy CS5, which says: “The proposal would…conflict with an objective of the Core Strategy to provide for a high quality, safe and attractive living environment for communities in a way that respects and safeguards the special qualities, character and local distinctiveness of the area, and in particular, with the requirements of policy CS5 ‘Safe and healthy communities’ which requires that particular attention be given to creating places that are structured so that different uses do not cause conflict, and that environments are created in which people feel safe.”

The Developer’s planning statement supporting the current application seeks to challenge this. It says “Within historic town centres, the juxtaposition of churches, residential accommodation and public houses is far from unusual.   A number of pubs operated by [the applicant] are in similar locations, next to – or even combined with – churches”.

 It says further that the Proposed alterations to the external fabric and appearance of the building [will have] no adverse impact on the character and appearance of the conservation area or on the setting of adjoining listed buildings. The proposed change of use will not detract significantly from either the character or appearance of the area or the amenities which local residents and occupiers / users of other properties nearby may reasonably expect to enjoy.”..

However, we believe that the developer’s view is inaccurate and that the proposed change of use would have an adverse impact, in particular on the parish church and its precinct. The churchyard is a breathing space in the town centre, a place of repose and tranquillity, sometimes a place of solace and consolation.

The Lymington Conservation Area Appraisal recognises the particular status and importance of the parish church and churchyard to the town centre. The Local Distinctiveness SPD says that “The churchyard at St Thomas is a very important open space in the town centre. Between High Street, the “Tins”, the town Hall and Avenue Road, it provides both green amenity and various important links that allow visitors to enter the town centre on foot. Any development that threatens the sense of tranquillity or the character of this spiritual amenity should be avoided”.

The current proposal does threaten this sense of tranquillity and the character of this spiritual amenity. When consulted about the previous application, the Community Safety Officer suggested that measures would be required to combat the anticipated increased levels of anti-social behaviour; specifically that it would be necessary to “restrict access to the churchyard through the provision of lockable gates, lighting and CCTV

The need for measures such as these would interfere with the existing use of the churchyard and would diminish its abiding presence in the town centre, which brings positive benefits to the health and stability of the community as a whole

The anticipated increase in anti-social behaviour is not an issue that can be satisfactorily addressed through Licensing Conditions nor can the behaviour of the people who come and go from a pub be controlled by even the most professional of pub managers once they are no longer on the premises.

In reaching its decision, The Development Control Committee also recorded detailed concerns that

“On the basis of the limited details submitted…the Council is unable to be satisfied that the changes would not have a detrimental impact on interests of acknowledged importance. In particular, the likely requirement for a mechanical kitchen extraction system and chiller condensing units and arrangements for the removal of rubbish, the Council considers that these features would lessen the value of the building as a key unlisted building and would adversely impact on the character and appearance of the Conservation Area, the setting of adjoining listed buildings and on the residential amenities of local residents by reason of noise and disturbance. The proposal would therefore be contrary to policies CS1, CS2 and CS3 of the Core Strategy…and [saved] policies DW-E23 and BU-TC4…and to the objectives of PPS5 – Planning for the Historic Environment.”

The Developer tries to address the Council’s concerns in the planning statement supporting the current application. It says “An acoustic survey has been undertaken to ensure that acceptable noise levels are not exceeded”. However, the acoustic survey carried out on its behalf by Spectrum, a noise specialist, is mainly limited to the generation and transmission of noise from the interior of the building andtakes little or no account of the comings and goings from the proposed premises. For the reasons described above, the amenities enjoyed by local residents are more likely to be significantly compromised by noise and disturbance created outside the building.

The Developer’s planning statement says “At the time the residential care home for elderly people was first established, there was a pub opposite at 45 St Thomas Street (“The Lymington Tavern”). Clearly, that relationship was not considered to be a problem at the time of granting permission for the care home use.”   However, the pub described was small and uninviting, with customer numbers rarely entering double figures, which was one reason why it failed.   To suggest a comparison is absurd, and also shows why scale is so important a factor in the analysis of this application.

It says [the applicant’s] operating policy [explains] management measures that are taken to minimise any disturbance to people living nearby and using other neighbouring premises.”   However, experience proves otherwise. Drinkers are drawn to cheap alcohol as moths to a flame. It is inevitable that incidents will occur, whatever management policy may be. Lymington has its own history of such incidents, which suggests that it is not immune.   And management has no control over events which occur outside the premises, such as vomiting, urination, loud conversations, banging car doors, noisy engines and traffic congestion. In response to the previous application, the Police said that  “the applicant’s Design and Access Statement does not respond to advice in paragraph 87 of DCLG Circular 01/2006 (Guidance on changes to the Development Control System) that such statements should demonstrate how crime prevention measures have been considered in the design proposal” and concluded that they were “unable to support” the application.

It says “The objective of [the Core Strategy] is fully supported and information provided with this re-submitted application seeks to demonstrate that the proposed change of use is consistent with the associated planning policy.”   The LPA has already decided that it is not, so long as the premises are between the Church and a care home.

It says that “the church of St Thomas is itself currently undergoing major change and investment…[the applicant] wishes the Church every success in achieving its aim of attracting many more visitors to events in the building…“. However, the church is engaged in a different business and does not sell alcohol so the intended analogy is irrelevant…

It says that “All deliveries will take place from St Thomas St, as they do now to the existing retail premises. A service door to be inserted at the west end of the “shop front” will provide access to a service corridor running through to the back of the building and the garden…all collections of refuse and material for recycling will be carried out from St Thomas Street, as they do now. ”   Currently, however, the retail premises at 47 & 48 St Thomas Street are open for up to 8 hours a day on six days a week and trading is light. The change of use proposed would see the premises open up to 17½ hours a day, seven days a week, with a turnover incomparably greater. There is no parking space outside the shop other than the street, which is a congested junction. It is unjustifiably optimistic to suppose that deliveries and refuse collection will take place “as they do now”.

Finally, the Developer’s planning statement says “The premises will create up to 50 new jobs. It is estimated that of these about 15 will be full time and 35 part time…”

 However, such claims should be balanced by the probability that jobs will be destroyed elsewhere in the High Street.   It is very unlikely that the town could absorb the extra supply created by such jobs without attracting large numbers of visitors from elsewhere.

Behind this application, presented as a simple change of use to an existing building, is concealed a project of a scale which is exceptional and whose potential consequences for the town need to be properly understood.

Figures available from its published 2010/11 accounts show that the applicant’s 775 national pubs employ an average 27 staff (or 15 “full-time equivalents”) to generate annual sales of £1.29 million.   The application here considered includes a promise to create 50 new jobs, some of them part-time (the pro-rata “full-time equivalent” number is 28) which suggests an annual sales target of around £2.3 million or £6,300 every day of the year, half of which, by the applicant’s own admission, would be sales of alcohol   This sales projection is consistent with the large floor area of the premises (including the proposed “beer garden”) which is about the same as that of the town’s Tesco supermarket and substantially exceeds the area of any other drinking or food establishment in the town.

The consequences of adding at a single stroke such a massive increase in the supply of food and drink to a High Street which is already adequately supplied by 21 hotels, pubs, restaurants and coffee houses spread along its length are such that their impact would change the whole balance of the town centre and so alter the factors by which the merits of the application should be judged.

The stated policy of the applicant is to set prices below those of competitors, so it must be assumed that local custom would be drawn to the new establishment at the expense of existing outlets.   Some of them would fail and so reduce the choice available, and alter the balance and vitality of the High Street as well as destroying existing livelihoods and jobs.   But the implied sales targets would also suggest a need for a substantial increase in visitors from outside the town, most of whom would be likely to come by car, with consequences for congestion and parking.   Whatever the eventual balance, there would be a considerable increase in both pedestrian and vehicle traffic in the vicinity of the premises, adding weight to the first reason the LPA gave for refusal of application 95473.   The noise and hubbub inseparable from such traffic, which would continue for up to 18 hours a day, and reaching its peak in the “quiet” evening hours, would be external to the premises and so beyond the control of the applicant.

Conclusion   The additional information included in the current application includes no new evidence to alter the Development Control Committee’s decision of September 2010.   The proposal if implemented carries serious risks for the balance and vitality of the High Street and the site remains inappropriate for its proposed change of use, being incompatible with Policies CS5, CS1, CS2, CS3 and CS24 of the Core Strategy and saved policies DW-E23 and BU-TC4 of the superseded Local Plan and with the objectives and policies of PPS5 – Planning for the Historic Environment.

 

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