B&NES Council’s Development Control Committee voted to refuse planning permission for tables and chairs outside Costa Coffee’s Keynsham branch this afternoon. The proposal divided opinion between members who believed the views of Keynsham residents should be listened to and others who agreed with the Planning Officer’s recommendation that there were no grounds on which to refuse the application. The vote was 6-4 in favour of refusal with three members of the committee abstaining.
South West Coffee, the franchisee running Costa Coffee on the High Street, gained approval from the Licensing authority last month for three tables and six chairs. In the meantime, it agreed with council planning officers to modify its planning application to just two tables and four chairs, all located on the left hand side of the entrance. For the last month however, it has had the original three tables and six chairs located on both sides of the entrance, a situation which B&NES Highways officers had already deemed unacceptable because of the narrow pavement length. Speaking against the application at this afternoon’s meeting Keynsham North Councillor Charles Gerrish said Costa’s actions “flew in the face of the planning process” and that applicants should learn not to act before the process was complete. Notwithstanding the “retrospective” nature of the application, committee members were advised by Chairman Gerry Curran that this was not in itself a reason for refusing planning permission. Indeed, it was pointed out that retrospective applications often gave planners an opportunity to see for themselves whether the applicants’ proposals actually in worked in practice. No doubt officers will now be able to check whether the 0.9m intrusion onto the footpath, as indicated in the application, is indeed a practical width for a table, chair and screen.
At this stage, it is not known whether South West Coffee will lodge an appeal against the decision or simply accept the situation and remove the tables and chairs. If they do appeal, as we reported in Issue 276, B&NES will be unable to take any enforcement action until such time as that appeal is heard.