Local fears in East Lothian after the conservation garden was turned into an alfresco dining area

A restaurant has won the right to convert a private garden into an al fresco dining area after councilors said it was important to survive in the post-Covid times.

Main course owner Gullane applied to East Lothian Council to change the use of the front yard belonging to the flat above their shop to an outdoor seating area for the restaurant.

However, neighbors protested, with a father of two young children saying smoke from the area “wafted” into the youngsters’ bedroom when the window was open.

READ MORE: Alfresco dining area at East Lothian Italian restaurant ‘belonged to upstairs apartment’

And another neighbor argued it didn’t fit the character of the conservation village, which is “quiet and respectful of neighboring properties,” and asked the councilman how they would feel if a beer garden opened next to their homes.

Applicant Luciano Crolla owns both the apartment and the restaurant and first used the garden for al fresco dining in July 2020.

A virtual meeting of the council’s planning committee was told that local authorities were being urged at the time to relax rules on hospitality businesses to support the impact of Covid on them.

The planners only noticed the use when a large marquee was erected, which caused complaints from neighbors.

The marquee is no longer used at the site and planning officials recommended that councilors approve changing the garden’s use to al fresco dining as it was council policy.

The committee was told by planning chief Keith Dingwall that the change was a “natural extension of a well-established business in the village”.

According to the meeting, 20 objections to the change of use were filed, complaining about the impact of noise, light and odors from the outdoor area on surrounding private gardens.

Gullane Area Community Council also raised concerns about the potential impact of noise and odor nuisance on neighbours.

Local resident Clare Walker urged committee members to oppose the change of use.

She told them, “This is a massive change in usage, not just a natural extension of a business.”

She added: “This development damages the character of this protected area.

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“The neighborhood is currently characterized as quiet and respectful of the privacy and amenities of their property.”

And neighbor David Lees, who lives next door to the garden, said he and his young family were faced with noise, including swearing, smells and smoke, entering their home and garden.

He told the committee: “My two daughters’ bedroom is about a meter from this garden area and when the window is open significant smoke draws in and into our garden.”

Councilman Jeremy Findlay, a community member who submitted the application after planners recommended it for approval, urged the committee not to allow it.

He questioned whether the conditions imposed by the council to control the impact on neighbours, including limiting the hours of use of the garden and lighting, would be enforceable.

And he cast doubt on claims the area was essential to post-lockdown business closures.

Mr Findlay said: “This was a thriving business pre-Covid, it doesn’t need this outside world to survive.”

However, planning officer Norman Hampshire contradicted the statement that hospitality operations across the county had changed as a result of Covid and many people now prefer to eat al fresco, saying: “This will be a trend for the future”.

Councilor Hampshire said: “If this business is to survive over the long term it needs to have outdoor space.”

The change of use was granted for a limited period of one year.

A second application for a canopy in the garden area, which was also subsequently applied for, was also granted.


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