A RESTAURANT has won the right to convert a private garden into an al fresco dining area after councilors said it was essential for surviving in post-Covid times.
The owner of The Main Course, Gullane, applied to East Lothian Council to change the use of the front yard belonging to the flat above the 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.
And another neighbor argued that it didn’t fit the character of the conservation village, which is “quiet and respectful of neighboring properties,” and asked councilors how they would feel about a beer garden opening 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.
At a virtual meeting of the Council’s planning committee, it was revealed that local authorities were being urged at the time to relax rules on the hospitality industry to reduce the impact of Covid-19 on them.
The use of the space only became known to the planners after the erection of a large marquee, which triggered 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.
CONTINUE READING: Family restaurant offers to convert the garden into a dining area
The committee was told by planning chief Keith Dingwall that the change was a “natural extension of a well-established business in the village”.
20 objections were raised to the change of use, 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.
“The neighborhood is currently characterized as quiet and respectful of neighbors’ 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 to refuse approval.
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 for post-Covid business.
Mr Findlay said: “This was a thriving business pre-Covid, it doesn’t need this outside world to survive.”
However, Councilor Norman Hampshire, Planning Officer, disagreed, saying hospitality businesses across the county had changed due to Covid and many people are now preferring to eat al fresco, saying: “This will be a trend for the future. ”
Mr Hampshire said: “If this business is to survive 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.