J D Wetherspoon’s Latest Application – The Society’s View

The national pub chain J D Wetherspoon has renewed its application to change the planning status of Ford’s furniture shop from “retail use” to “drinking establishment”.   The new application (96974) is a repeat of the earlier application (95473), augmented by more detailed information responding to the concerns which led to the Council’s earlier refusal in September 2010.

The Development Control Committee refused the earlier Application (95473) because:

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.”

In framing the reasons for its decision, The Development Control Committee added:

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.”

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 impact on, and 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 new application includes a promise to create 50 new jobs in Lymington, some of them part-time (the “full-time equivalent” would be 28) which suggests an annual sales target of around £2.3 million or £6,300 every day of the year, half of which would be sales of alcohol   This sales projection is consistent with the large floor area of the premises and 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.   To achieve the expected level of sales would need several hundred customers to visit the premises every day, many of them in the evening.   The plans include table seating for upwards of 150 people, plus generous standing room

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 served by 21 hotels, pubs, restaurants and coffee houses spread along its length are such that their impact would be felt throughout the town.

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, so altering the balance and vitality of the High Street and 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 NFDC gave for refusal of application 95473 and in particular threatening the tranquillity of the Church precinct.   The noise and hubbub inseparable from such traffic, which would continue for up to 18 hours a day and reach its peak in the “quiet” evening hours, would be external to the premises and so beyond the control of the applicant.

This is a massive project which has generated strong feelings on both sides, and whatever their views it is important that as many as possible of the town’s residents make them known before a decision is made.   To do so, you can either visit the NFDC planning website at

http://web3.newforest.gov.uk/planningonline/acolnetcgi.gov?ACTION=UNWRAP&RIPNAME=Root.PgeResultDetail&TheSystemkey=174943

or write to: Mr David Groom, Development Control Manager, Planning and Transportation, New Forest District Council, Appletree Court, Lyndhurst SO43 7PA

 

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