As we understand it this is a full application for change of use to A3 (restaurant) as well as the carrying out of certain enabling works in particular to Boat Stall Lane, Grand Parade and the Colonnade. We have found this an extremely difficult application to deal with due to confusion and inconsistency among supporting documents and lack of clarity about exactly what it is for which consent is sought. If there is a list of documents which would be approved in any consent we have not been able to find it. Presumably there will be further applications in respect of works to the restaurants themselves as well as to later stages of the development. Meanwhile we have had no choice but to view the current application in isolation, on its merits and on the basis of the information provided.
Unfortunately, many of the questions raised by local residents during consultation, particularly the 60-odd who live at the Empire, an apartment building immediately above the proposed site, are not answered in this application or are answered in a confusing, inconsistent or incomplete manner. For example,
1. BOAT STALL LANE. There are numerous conflicting statements in supporting documentation as to how, by whom and at what times Boat Stall Lane will be used by pedestrians and service vehicles accessing the Colonnade and we have found no acknowledgement of its current use for access to the Empire’s 24 space parking garage. Whatever may be intended there are numerous ways in which the needs of pedestrians, commercial premises, both existing and proposed, and Empire residents could come into conflict in practice. Boat Stall Lane is narrow, no more than two and a half meters wide in some places and has two blind corners. It seems to be implicitly accepted that service vehicles carrying ‘large items,’ as proposed in some documents (but not in others) would be unable to proceed to the east end of the alley where there is no manoeuvring or storage space. If a trolley system from the Guildhall car park is proposed it has not been described and no manoeuvring, parking or storage space is provided in this area either.
2. GRAND PARADE. Doubts on the intended use of Boat Stall Lane, both as to intentions and practical outcomes, are bound to lead to questions over Grand Parade. Here the planning and design team has made bold and ingenious proposals for use of the shared space. In our view this could work well in favourable conditions but with its single traffic lane and pinch points to the north and south there is very little room for error. If no deliveries or collections will be permitted down Boat Stall Lane as stated in the Design and Access Statement (but contradicted elsewhere) it is arguable that the reception buildings will need to be re-thought with larger lifts and it seems to us far from certain that restaurant operators will be happy to see their customers sharing lifts with garbage removal and supply deliveries. Furthermore, no mention is made in the Transport and Parking Statement to the fact that the Empire (wrongly identified as a hotel) which occupies about half of the west side of Grand Parade has its main entrance on that street. This is used frequently for taxi pickup/drop off and for drivers to assist elderly passengers, some on wheel chairs, all of which is put at risk by the revised road layout.
3. MANAGEMENT ISSUES. Living immediately above the proposed development Empire residents were at pains, during the consultation stage, to emphasise their concerns over such operational issues as rubbish storage and collection, noise, kitchen smells and hours of operation as well as service access. In June 2013 they were promised that a Management Report would accompany any planning application. We have been able to find no such report and while many of these issues are discussed in supporting material the status of such proposals is unclear and they vary across documents.
4. CONCLUSION. While in general local residents have no objection to the proposed change of use they find material supporting the application lacking in clarity, consistency and completeness and they believe that many of the concerns they raised during consultation have not been adequately addressed. We therefore request that a DECISION be DEFERRED on the application until matters discussed above can be more thoroughly resolved. Alternatively, should the committee be minded to grant consent on the basis of the material currently available we ask that conditions be imposed which will ensure that no development can take place until the applicant is committed to workable and satisfactory proposals in at least the following areas
Management of service access and storage
Other management issues including hours of operation, noise attenuation and removal of kitchen smells
Fire risk and safety issues
Management of the construction process