Town centre policy tension noted but residents' living conditions prioritised

A restaurant with four flats above including second floor extension from an existing office and workshop has been refused in a town centre location in a Tyneside settlement for harm to the living conditions of nearby residents, harm to the character and appearance of the area, harm to highway safety and harm to nearby European protected sites.

One aspect of the refusal related to whether the existing office and workshop use would be more or less harmful, in terms of the impact on local residents, than the proposed restaurant with flats above. The inspector noted the site was located in a designated town centre where mixed-use schemes such as that proposed were supported by adopted local plan policy. But the inspector also noted the appeal site was located on the periphery of a cluster of commercial public uses and the physical closest relationship the appeal building had was to residential properties not commercial ones. As the proposed restaurant would introduce a use which operated into the evening, comprising 52 covers, he held that it would bring a greater number of people into the area resulting in an increase in noise and disturbance through extra activity of comings and goings.

The inspector commented on the tension in the local plan in respect of policies which sought to support the town centre and the evening economy and those that sought to ensure the living conditions of existing residents were not adversely affected. The appellant had argued that the existing use would have a greater effect on nearby residents because it was not conditioned regarding hours of operation, but the inspector disagreed. He opined that the lawful use of the property was only for B1 purposes as per the Use Classes Order 1987, which meant it was ultimately restricted in terms of nuisance-causing uses regardless of its hours of operation. He felt the restaurant use would cause more noise and disturbance to local residents who would otherwise expect lower levels, despite their nominal town centre location.

The inspector also found harm from the unsympathetic design of the proposal, a third floor, which he felt would appear incongruous in terms of form and modern materials used, harm from the lack of car parking provision in an area of car parking stress and harm from a lack of a contribution towards mitigation against disturbance to protected bird habitats in nearby coastal special protection areas and special sites of scientific interest.

Inspector: John Dowsett; Written representations

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