South Ribble bar allowed outdoor seating after warning it might not survive without it
A bar in Walton-le-Dale has been given the go-ahead to open an outside seating area after its owner told councillors that he and his wife were at risk of financial and psychological ruin because of the uncertainty hanging over the business.
Sean O’Hagan had applied for retrospective permission to use the area in front of the Taps and Wine Bar venue on Chorley Road to erect four booths for their customers, together with acoustic fencing and canopy, lighting and outdoor heating.
A meeting of South Ribble Borough Council’s planning committee heard that he and his wife Debbie had partially kitted out the area prior to it being approved only because they were obliged to use the business support grant money that funded the work by January this year.
The authority’s planning officers recommended that committee members grant temporary permission to change the use of the outside area until next January to allow for consideration of a requested noise assessment and to test the impact of the seating area once it was operational.
Case officer Debbie Roberts called it a “compromise option”.
However, Mr. O’Hagan said he feared that he and his wife would invest the additional money required to complete the seating area, but only have the benefit of it for six months if they were subject to a repeat of what he described as a “malicious complaint” that led to the withdrawal of a previous temporary permission to use the front of the property last year. He added that the council itself had also “moved the goalposts” by changing the information they sought from the noise assessment.
“Psychologically, we don’t know if we can last until 2022 – never mind financially. We have put a lot into this, we are not millionaires – this is our life savings [that have] all gone into it.
“We were stopped with this pandemic – we’ve got a small bar and we’ve tried to add this additional space… It’s been very difficult for us when you go round and see other bars with masses of people outside…and we’re told we can’t have a few people outside the front of our bar on a noisy main road,” Mr. O’Hagan said.
The Taps and Wine Bar opened two years ago in what was formerly the local Conservative club. It has previously been refused permission for a raised, decked area at the front of the premises because of concern over the impact on those living nearby. The premises have commercial properties to one side and a residential dwelling to the other
However, councillors on the planning committee this time lined up to raise a glass to Mr. and Mrs. O’Hagan’s efforts to bring their business through the pandemic – and demanded that the condition granting only temporary permission for outside seating be removed.
Committee chair Caleb Tomlinson said that the location of the bar had to be “one of the noisiest” parts of South Ribble anyway – while Cllr Barrie Yates praised the couple for “bending over backwards” to ensure not only that the business was successful, but that it did not have an undue impact on its neighbours.
He added: “You only need to turn the corner and you’ll see 30 people sat out on the pavement drinking, not 500 yards away.”
Cllr James Flannery said: “We’ve seen them suffer and try [to] manage what effectively has been some inconsistencies in our policy,” referring to an historical patchwork of different permissions for different venues in the same area.
“We need to give them certainty – as a business owner myself, certainty is the biggest issue.”
Councillors voted unanimously to grant permanent permission for the outside seating area and also to remove a planning condition that had proposed its use be limited until 8pm for most of the week and 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays. However, the authority’s licensing committee will ultimately decide whether those hours can be extended.