Anger as Ponteland bar gets green light for decking

The decking and patio area at the front of You Only Live Once in Bell Villas, Ponteland.
The decking and patio area at the front of You Only Live Once in Bell Villas, Ponteland.

There was fury in the council chamber as a retrospective application for a deck outside a Ponteland bar was narrowly approved yesterday.

Permission was granted for the already-constructed patio and decking to the front of You Only Live Once (YOLO), on Bell Villas, by Northumberland County Council’s planning and performance committee.

The decision, by five votes to four, sparked anger with resident Jennifer Hardy standing up to shout: “You have sent a message to Northumberland that you can do what the hell you like.”

YOLO opened in September in Bell Villas, three years after a planning inspector allowed its appeal to change the use from retail to a bar/bistro along with the construction of a single-storey side extension.

A previous scheme for the venue had already been refused and dismissed at appeal and another bid was lodged last year before being withdrawn.

The final condition (number 15) on the appeal approval sought for ‘landscaping to be carried out within the first planting and seeding seasons following the occupation of the buildings or completion of the development’.

However, instead of a landscaped area, a decking area surrounded by a wall has been built instead.

Philip Ham, from Ponteland Civic Society, spoke against the plans, as did Coun Liz Thompson, from Ponteland Town Council, which had submitted a comprehensive list of objections, some of which were addressed by Neill Winch, from YOLO.

The conclusion of the planning officer’s report, which recommended approval, explained that retrospective bids must be treated the same as proposed development.

It added: ‘The planning considerations arising from the application are the impacts upon the conservation area, highway safety and neighbourhood amenity.

‘These impacts have been identified as not causing a material degree of harm to the extent that refusing planning permission would be reasonable’.

But Coun Heather Cairns said: “Why are we here? We have an inspector’s report which says ‘do this, this and this’.”

Coun Anthony Murray added: “I don’t understand why we are here this afternoon.”

Coun Trevor Thorne said: “Obviously, the applicant has blatantly ignored the condition.

“Yes it’s subjective, but it’s in a conservation area where the inspector is asking for soft landscaping. Putting in a deck – yes, it goes with a wine bar, but it doesn’t go in a conservation area.”

However, Coun Anne Dale said: “I think it has to be dealt with as a new application.

“Has anyone been past it? I have and I think it looks nice.”

And Coun Jeff Gobin said: “It’s nice to see a planning officer with a bit of sense. If it was an eyesore then it might be a problem, but it’s fine.”

But Coun Tony Reid said: “Ponteland Town Council has a reputation for being quite forceful and I don’t always agree, but I do here.”