Beer garden plans in tatters after landmark Preston pub loses appeal

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One of Preston's biggest pubs has lost its battle to build a permanent beer garden fronting onto a busy main road.

The Greyfriar, at the junction of Friargate and Ringway, appealed against the city council's refusal for an outdoor seating area for up to 78 drinkers and diners.

But a planning inspector has come down on the side of the local authority, agreeing with officers that the development, including a permanent glass and steel barrier, would have had an unacceptable impact on the city centre location.

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Robert Hitchcock said the 1.2-metre high barrier around the seating area would be "a conspicuous feature" on a busy road intersection at the heart of Preston's £14.7m regeneration scheme and would therefore be "visually intrusive."

How the beer garden would have looked (Image: JD Wetherspoons).How the beer garden would have looked (Image: JD Wetherspoons).
How the beer garden would have looked (Image: JD Wetherspoons).
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The city council threw out the scheme by pub chain JD Wetherspoon last July saying it would mean the removal of established shrubs and bushes in front of the pub. And even though the company planned to include up to nine planters in its design, the overall effect would have been the loss of the only established greenery in that part of Friargate.

Wetherspoons reduced the height of the glazed screen in the hope of getting the plan through, but the inspector still dismissed it as having an unacceptable impact on the street scene.

"The appearance of the barrier would be largely utilitarian and, despite its light touch design aimed at minimising its impact on the streetscape, it would be a conspicuous feature by its continuous length, height, form and construction," he said in his appeal judgement.

The Greyfriar pub already has a smaller drinking area out front.The Greyfriar pub already has a smaller drinking area out front.
The Greyfriar pub already has a smaller drinking area out front.

"It would contrast starkly with the more subtle and unobtrusive design of the street works. It would not be a positive element in the intended design ethos of the streetscape. Furthermore, it would visually compartmentalise the area as semi-private space annexed from the remainder of the public realm. To a limited extent it would reduce the sense of openness at the junction."

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The Greyfriar has had an outdoor cafe area since 2006. Additional seating was allowed in 2011 when the council gave permission for a panelled enclosure. But with only space for 28 seats it was considered to be too small especially when Covid restrictions meant many more people chose to sit outdoors.

The current seats and tables are cleared away at night, along with the moveable barrier around the area. But Wetherspoons were hoping to have permanent fencing in place around a total of 78 removable seats.

The inspector added: "I recognise that the street works are aimed at encouraging public activity, including alfresco dining. However, there is little before me to indicate any operational necessity for the barrier. The appellant contends that the proposed barrier would be comparable in appearance to one granted by the council in 2011. However, that barrier was about half the length of the one now proposed. It was approved in a position set within the site and did not involve the removal of the existing landscaping area. Had it been installed, it would not therefore have had the same presence or degree of prominence as the proposal before me.

"The removal of the established planting in lieu of small-scale planters would present a significantly harder edge to the built form at this prominent corner. I am not persuaded that the proposed landscaping elements would give rise to the same degree of visual softening of those closest elements of the built environment. Nor would they adequately mitigate for the loss of the existing landscaping.”

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