Penwortham pizza restaurant granted permission for new layout in spite of noise complaints

The operator of a pizza restaurant in Penwortham says that he has done everything he can to address noise complaints from the occupants of a nearby flat – including offering to buy the property.

Friday, 19th November 2021, 1:58 pm

Wayne Bretherton, who opened Craft and Crust almost two years ago, told a meeting of South Ribble Borough Council’s planning committee that whatever he had attempted was “never enough – or new issues suddenly arise”.

Councillors were debating whether he should be given retrospective permission for a revised layout at the Liverpool Road venue after it was set up differently to approved plans. The business opened with a larger bar area than had initially been proposed and only 68 seats, compared to the 101 originally intended.

Three objections were lodged to regularisation of the changes – including one from the residents of an apartment near the restaurant who said that the amended floorplan had had an unacceptable impact, with noise preventing them from enjoying their home and affecting their wellbeing from the day the premises opened in December 2019.

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Craft and Crust opened in December 2019

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Committee members were presented with a litany of complaints about various sources of noise, including “people talking, walking movement, noise from equipment and furniture movement”.

However, Mr. Bretherton told them that it was only one flat whose occupants had “complained relentlessly” about noise generated by the business – even when it was operating as a takeaway-only service during lockdown.

“We have worked professionally and respectfully in doing everything possible to find an outcome which benefits the complainants, including even offering to purchase the property at a fair market value.

“I have spent more than £4,000 in consultancy fees [and on] equipment and acoustic measures – and while it satisfies your specialist officers, it’s still not enough for the complainant,” said Mr. Bretherton, who added that there was “no doubt that human noise would be much greater in the original [plans]”.

However, Howick and Priory ward councillor David Howarth said that the residents he had spoken to over noise concerns – who were unable to attend the meeting – felt like they were “not particularly being listened to”.

“What appears to be an acceptable background noise when you’re sitting having a pizza talking with friends, is not necessarily an acceptable background noise when you’re sitting upstairs trying to listen to the TV and the noise is being generated from downstairs,” Cllr Howarth said.

He added that the committee had been put in an impossible position by the failure to implement the originally-approved plans.

“If you do pass this application, you’re effectively sending out a message that says you can have a planning application and then go away and do whatever you want – and come back a couple of years later and we’ll just nod it through.

“And then if you refuse it…you’re effectively closing the premises down, because they would then have to go back to the original [layout] despite all the investment that has gone into that area and the improvement that has been made to what was a grotty end of the district centre.”

The authority’s environmental health department had originally said that it could not support the application to revise the condition stipulating the layout of the venue, because it meant that the site was “predominantly [being] used as a bar and not a restaurant – and thus higher sound levels are being generated”, including shouting from customers. Officers also noted that another condition requiring insulation had “not been complied with”.

However, after considering a recent noise assessment, they concluded that noise levels were “in line with the recommended target…for the restaurant space and no unreasonable disturbance is expected to the adjacent residential spaces”. Environmental health also said that since the venue reopened to guests after lockdown, it was once again operating as a seated restaurant rather than a bar and added that suggested insulation levels were acceptable.

The meeting heard from acoustic specialist Simon Webster who said that a raft of measures had been implemented, including “isolation pads under tables to mitigate noises from glasses on tables, soft flooring in the cellar to mitigate barrel noise…[and] rubber seals and soft closures on doors”.

Committee member Will Adams said that “extensive mitigations” had been put in place to deal with the noise complaints.

“I think it’s a very well-run business and I think it’s great for the community. I think…we should be supporting local businesses as much as possible after the last 18 months,” Cllr Adams added.

His comments were echoed by other members and the amended layout was approved. However, a new condition was imposed restricting use of an outside area at the venue to before 8pm in order to ensure consistency with similar businesses nearby.

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