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Monday, October 20, 2008

New Ponteland Restaurant Given Green Light

Campaigners have lost their battle against plans to open a new restaurant in a Northumberland town's conservation area - after the scheme was finally given the go-ahead at the fourth attempt.

Two previous bids to create the 175-seat eating place above Barclays Bank in Main Street, Ponteland, have been rejected by councillors, and an appeal was also dismissed by a Government planning inspector.

Now a revised scheme by Tyneside property developer UGC Holdings has been given the green light after members of Castle Morpeth Council's development services committee voted 7-6 to approve it.

Councillors took the decision despite continued opposition from Ponteland town council, the town's civic society and 11 local households and businesses.

Objections included the restaurant's impact on the historic core of the community, overlooking of properties to the rear of the building, the lack of parking places and potential noise and disruption from a proposed pavement cafe area.

The two previous applications to convert vacant offices above the bank into a restaurant were rejected by the committee in February and August last year, after members ruled it would create an over-dominant eyesore in the town's historic conservation area.

Concerns were voiced that the proposed changes to the 1970s building would also spoil the setting of the nearby Pele Tower, a scheduled ancient monument.

An appeal by UGC Holdings was dismissed earlier this year by a planning inspector, who said the proposed eaterie would harm the character of the conservation area because of its size, and would lead to a loss of trees.

The company has now reduced the size of the restaurant to 98 seats and made other changes, including reducing the scale of extensions to the existing building. Borough council planning officers recommended approval, saying the revised scheme overcomes the inspector's reasons for rejecting the appeal.

Development services chairman Coun Frank Harrington said: "We approved the application by just one vote and there was a great deal of sympathy with the view that this is in the wrong place in terms of parking and other issues.

"There is now a better look to the building and it is an improved application, but there was still strong support among members for turning it down. However, the appeal inspector did not raise any objections to the lack of car parking or the concerns about overlooking of properties to the rear of the building.

"Really our hands were tied on this because the reality is that we have to have refusal reasons which another inspector would accept on appeal, otherwise we risk incurring criticism and costs."

Source: JournalLive