Whetherspoons letter to the editor

Editor Lymington times

Sir

I appreciate that it is necessary for front page reporting to summarise an issue and get a headline but when this headline does not really reflect the true position I hope you will allow a right of reply on your letters page.

The Lymington Society is not in the business of waving white flags. The Society is a body which looks after the interests of the whole Town on an objective and practical basis bearing in mind that any particular issue, whilst important, is one of many and once that issue has been dealt with as fully as possible it is time to move on and look after other issues. This is the distinction between the Lymington Society as an amenity Society, which has now coming up its 50th anniversary, and other single issue groups who may well be prepared to fight on until the last gasp over the issue with which they are concerned.

In the case of Wetherspoon’s we opposed both applications. We encouraged responses and there was a huge response of 900 individuals against planning permission on the second application. The decision did not reflect the views of the Town or the 900 objectors and the Society spent a lot of its resources in time and money in establishing whether the decision could be challenged. It might have been possible to challenge it but the view taken by the Committee was that even if there was a successful challenge then it was extremely likely that the same councillors would vote in the same way on another decision, which would be required as a result of a successful legal challenge, and a lot of time and effort would have been spent for nothing.

The Lymington Society has never been involved in licensing issues because they particularly affect individuals who live nearby. However if the licensing could have been a back door to preventing a public house in such a sensitive location then we would have objected, but consider seriously whether the council, which is now the licensing authority, would be likely to refuse an alcohol licence for a public house for which it had just granted planning permission.

All that could be achieved would be to limit the licensing hours, but that is a matter which is best argued by the neighbours for their own particular needs and by the police in respect of public order.

The main body of the press release was as follows and I hope you will allow it to be printed here. “The Lymington Society have supported the 900 individual objections to the location of the proposed Wetherspoons public house next to the church. A considerable amount of time and effort was spent in doing so and considering the validity of the eventual permission passed.

The permission has been granted and there is a hearing in respect of licensing. The Society’s opposition is not so much as to the extent of the licensing but to the fact of the public house in that location itself.

The Society’s view is that the hours of licensing and any conditions placed on the premises are matter for the neighbours who would be directly affected, the police who will need to monitor it and potentially the Town Council if they feel it appropriate to express a view on licensing in the Town centre.

It has not been the Society’s practice to become involved in licensing matters which would have the effect of preferring or disadvantaging one licensed premises over another once planning permission has been approved in principle.

If as a result of the operation of the premises, representations to the licensing authority are clearly in the interests of the Town then Society would reconsider its position.”

The Society’s Committee is conscious that the combination of it’s lack of legal action against the Council in respect of Wetherspoon’s and its acceptance of the current plans in relation to the Redrow site, are tending to give the misleading impression that the Committee is accepting the power of large organisations in pushing through planning applications which the townspeople don’t want.

The Committee can only deal with the art of the possible and if it is likely, as in the case of Wetherspoon’s, that the Council Planning Committee will maintain a subsequent decision, and in the case of Redrow that the developers could fall back on a previous planning application with a extra 100 units then the Committee will object as long as reasonably possible, or negotiate the best outcome, and continue to deal with other issues. Currently the next issue is the amount of green belt land surrounding Lymington that should be allocated for housing.

The Society’s AGM has been advertised for 20 March at 7:30 PM at the Community Centre and of course members are welcome to take the Committee to task if it is not carrying out their wishes. The meeting has been publicly advertised and it is hoped that non members will attend as observers and if they feel strongly about the Town, then join the Society and make their voices heard. The first question asked by any inspector or barrister in any planning appeal or enquiry is to know what membership the Lymington Society represents!

Yours sincerely

Clive Sutton

Chairman

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