Focus Outdoors: Battling the planners

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Related tags: Shepherd neame, Planning permission, Town and country planning in the united kingdom, Appeal

It's said that every picture tells a story. But the photos here of recently completed Shepherd Neame outdoor developments in Kent fail to reveal the...

It's said that every picture tells a story. But the photos here of recently completed Shepherd Neame outdoor developments in Kent fail to reveal the trials and tribulations behind them.

Permission for each of them was only granted after a catalogue of clashes with councils, objections from neighbours and planning negotiations over listed buildings.

Whenever Shepherd Neame encounters problems with an application, it compiles a detailed report, abridged versions of which are contained in the case studies here. They provide a snapshot of the kind of bureaucratic nightmare that, in the current climate, threatens plans for many outdoor areas.

"Sometimes these things go through on a straightforward basis. Sometimes one gets mired in these lengthy processes," says Shepherd Neame's property director George Barnes.

"A big problem we have is a lot of our houses are listed buildings, and that brings with it an increased level of scrutiny."These records are kept for use if we appeal a rejection we feel is unjustified. We can demonstrate that we have worked very hard with the authorities to produce suitable smoking solutions they are happy with." In these cases, at least, that seems like an understatement.

The Anchor, Faversham

Application: outdoor area, landscaped garden with direct access to garden for the first time; terrace smoking solution with parasol

Process started: site survey carried out January 13, 2006

Work completed: November 30, 2007


January-September 2006: site surveys carried out and drawings prepared.

September 27: quotation received from contractor to cut down three large trees which were blocking sunlight; shape remaining trees, remove debris from the site and remove part of the fence to allow access from the pub's rear.

October 20: agreed with tenant to complete work for rental increase of £20 per week. Tenant decided to undertake further work himself, including introduction of French doors.

April 16, 2007: project completed. Decided to apply for consent for creation of garden entrance and extension of hardstanding area to allow erection of an umbrella. Agreed with tenant further rental increase of £4 per week.

June 2007: site meetings with contractors carried out and plans drawn up.July 10: application submitted to Swale Borough Council.

August 23: council objects to siting of umbrella following neighbour's concerns and suggests different location for it. Sheps consents to this.

September 5: planning consent granted, with conditions including bricks used on patio to match those on existing patio.

George Barnes comments:​ "The Anchor is an example where the input of the planners has been creative. Instead of looking at a straightforward solution, we have had to come up with something that is much better overall and has improved access to the garden for everyone."

The Nailbox, Shorncliffe, Folkestone

Application: outdoor area, two-tier staged area with steps to car park

Process started: Application submitted December 15, 2004

Work completed: September 17, 2007


December 20, 2004: application refused following concerns from neighbour that development would overlook their garden.

March 4, 2005: drawings revised. Application resubmitted.

August 19: letter written to Shepway Council voicing concerns over length of time application was taking.

September 28: permission granted with what Shepherd Neame describes as 'oppressive conditions which made the project unfeasible'. These included barring use of the area after 9pm and not allowing tables and seating on the upper tier - on grounds of 'residential amenity' according to the council.

August 30, 2006: third application submitted attempting to remove oppressive conditions.

December 18: planning granted, but oppressive conditions remain.

June 29, 2007: appeal lodged with planning inspectorate.

December 18: appeal decision received. Condition of 9pm curfew remains, but seating condition removed.

George Barnes comments:​ "This timeline is not unusual. I understand that some planning departments are under pressure. We felt the conditions were too restrictive because they were effectively saying our customers would have to stand up."

The Gardeners Arms, Higham

Application: outdoor area, large restaurant extension, including gazebo smoking area

Process started: Site meeting with new tenant September 3, 2004

Work completed: October 1, 2007


May 11, 2006: garden surveyed as part of broader review ahead of smoking ban.

June 20: designs for restaurant extension, incorporating smoking area, submitted. Refused by planners due to scale of development. Revised and resubmitted, but again refused due to complexity of car parking scheme.

June 23: letter submitted to planning department requesting informal discussion prior to submitting full application.

July 28: informal meeting held.

August 8: correspondence with Gravesham Council over relocation of kitchen. Environmental health officer states the property requires a large kitchen in order to manage food levels but the planning department does not support the application for the removal of the existing kitchen. As a consequence, Shepherd Neame can only improve the pub externally.

October 3: planners inform Shepherd Neame that the application will be declined. The pub company replies that as it is conformingto central government guidance the council's refusal would be met with an appeal based on unlawfulness.

October 10: planning permission refused. Appeal lodged.

December 27: letter received from council stating that planning was not the major problem but the car park, due to its shared nature.March 2007: contractors recruited to erect timber-framed gazebo and an outdoor dining area with a shingle roof, and to landscape entire garden.

May 11: scheme submitted to planning department.

May 15: application validated.

July 4: Gravesham Council introduces its own policy concerning smoking areas and their proximity to open windows and doors. It requests that Shepherd Neame fixes shut the windows to the women's toilets. Although this matter was not covered in any government legislation, Sheps agrees.

October 18, 2007: Pub reopens.

George Barnes comments:​ "We did what the council wanted, which I think is over and above the call of duty. "There are better issues for us to draw the battle lines over, though. "This smoking legislation should eventually become clearer. Where there's a significant change in legislation, there's always bound to be a period of interpretation."

Related topics: Property law

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