Plans for new Welwyn Garden City pub restaurant dashed?

PUBLISHED: 07:41 28 June 2018 | UPDATED: 08:40 28 June 2018

The former Welwyn Garden City post office premises in Howardsgate.
Picture: Nina Morgan

The former Welwyn Garden City post office premises in Howardsgate. Picture: Nina Morgan

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Plans for a pub restaurant in Welwyn Garden City town centre could be thwarted by council officers’ objections.

Oakman Inns and Restaurants Ltd wants to convert the former post office site at 17-19 Howardsgate into what it would call The Beech House, creating 15 full-time jobs and 40 part-time positions.

Its sign would read ‘The Beech House, food and drink day and night’.

However, officers from Welwyn Hatfield Council have objected on the grounds that it wouldn’t be a shop and that the business would cause “detrimental” noise and odours.

In June last year, plans for a gym at the same location were refused.

The former post office premises in Howardsgate, Welwyn Garden City.The former post office premises in Howardsgate, Welwyn Garden City.

Welwyn Hatfield Council’s planning policy officer Mohammed Azram wrote in his objection: “It is considered that the proposed change of use would result in an excessive non-retail frontage (in non-A1 use class uses), to the detriment of this part of the Welwyn Garden City town centre.

“The evidence for the marketing of the premises is considered to be insufficient to justify a departure from the policy [in the 2016 Draft Local Plan], especially around why interest in this premises for a retail use could not be carried forward either in part or whole.

“No overriding benefits to the vitality and viability of the town centre been demonstrated to justify a departure from policy at this time.”

In contrast, Welwyn Garden City Business Improvement District (BID) is supporting the planning application.

BID chairman OJ Daya writes: “Although as a BID we support the planning policies and agree that there is a need for more retail space in the town, we feel that this particular unit does not lend itself to modern retail needs.

“It is too small in size for national retailers and too big for independent retailers, which has been proven by the fact that it has been on the market for over 18 months.”

Mr Daya adds: “Over the last five years, Howardsgate has become a food and drink destination in Welwyn Garden City and an operation such as the Beech House will increase the diversity of the current offer in the town centre and increase the dwell time of visitors and help consolidate Howardsgate as the food and drink hub of the town.

“The plans that Oakman Inns have presented are attractive and will fit in well with the high-quality restaurants in the town centre and will help ensure, in this difficult times for our town centres, the vitality and sustainability of the town.”

Welwyn Garden City resident Peter Ellis also supported the plans, highlighting a lack of demand for retail space in the town and saying that Oakman Inns’ plans “should be viewed as extremely positive”.

The council’s parking services manager Vikki Hatfield also supported the plans, highlighting enough parking facilities in the town to support the business.

Lorraine Davis, of the council’s client services, also raised no objection with regards to waste disposal.

However, Jeanette Hollingsworth-Biggs, Welwyn Hatfield Council’s Environmental Health Team Leader, has objected.

She writes: “The nature of this development has a high likelihood of creating detrimental effects to nearby residents from noise and odour.”

She adds: “The proposed use is for a restaurant and drinking establishment with an outside seating area for customers.

“Therefore there are a number of potential noise sources including; people noise from customers and staff; ventilation and cooling air handling equipment; plant noise; and amplified music.”

Ms Hollingsworth-Biggs continues: “The same concerns are raised with respect to odour in that this proposed activity will give rise to cooking smells and fumes.”

The old post office site has been boarded up since its sudden closure in October 2016.

Oakman Inns says it specialises in the concept of a “modern public house”, aiming to provide “the perfect environment to come and enjoy great food and drink whilst catching up with friends, family, neighbours and colleagues”.

The application states: “Oakman Inns and Restaurants has a track record of creating and running attractive and thriving establishments locally and the proposed development will help ensure the viability and long-term future of the building, while making a positive contribution to the vibrancy of Welwyn Garden City.”

What are your views?

Email letters@whtimes.co.uk

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