Bistro licence on hold after planning panel objections

A HEARING about a controversial licence bid for a proposed bar and bistro in Ponteland has been delayed.

Northumberland County Council agreed to adjourn the meeting, which will decide whether or not to grant a premises licence to Tyneside-based Newco (Ponteland) Ltd, after residents raised objections over the make-up of the panel.

The company is looking to open a two-storey bar and restaurant, which would be able to cater for up to 96 people, on the site of a former Co-op store and Wine Rack off-licence in Bell Villas.

The premises licence would allow it to provide regulated entertainment, alcohol and late night refreshment.

But 15 people have opposed the application, along with Ponteland Town Council, Civic Society and Methodist Church, as well as the Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service.

Concerns include potential noise nuisance from music and waste disposal operations and drinkers leaving the premises late at night.

The decision was expected to be made on Tuesday at Ponteland Memorial Hall, but before it began residents said they were unhappy that Coun Ian Hutchinson was to chair the panel.

He had also chaired a planning committee meeting in February which dealt with a bid to change the building’s use. Despite it being refused following a vote, locals said he strongly supported it and so it would not be right for him to chair the licensing committee.

When the meeting started, the county council’s Public Safety Unit Manager Philip Soderquest said: “Planning and licensing are two separate issues dealt with under separate measures of legislation.

“But it has been decided that another panel of elected members will decide upon the application to ensure the council’s high standards of fairness and transparency are upheld without question.”

The hearing was adjourned and it will re-convene with a new panel within the next two weeks.