Council told to 'think outside the box' and give go-ahead to Welwyn Garden City bar/restaurant plans
PUBLISHED: 10:32 22 January 2019 | UPDATED: 16:15 22 January 2019
Plans to turn Welwyn Garden City's long-vacant former post office premises into a bar/restaurant look set to get the go-ahead.
The old post office building in Howardsgate has been empty and boarded up since October 2016.
A proposal to turn it into a gym in June 2017 was rejected by Welwyn Hatfield Council, and marketing of the premises for retail purposes has also been fruitless.
The council acknowledges that allowing a bar/restaurant to open up at the site would conflict with its policy, which is for the unit to be used for retail.
However, the council has also acknowledged that the agent’s marketing campaign did not result in any firm offers from retailers.
A report to the Development Management Committee states: “The proposed development would result in an even higher proportion of non-A1 use class uses and a very low proportion of A1 use class uses within this secondary frontage.
“It would effectively mean the loss of the whole of this shopping parade to uses other than A1.”
However, the report also highlights that “planning permission could be granted for changes of use as an exception to the above criteria subject to there being an overriding benefit to the vitality and viability of the centre”.
Nineteen comments were submitted to the council on the plans by Oakman Inns and Restaurants Ltd, all of which were in support.
Summarising some of those public comments, the report reads: “The retail sector is under major pressures due to changing consumer behaviours, high rents and business rates and town centres will need to adapt if they are to prosper.
“Town centres need to offer other options.
“There is no shortage of available retail space in WGC and losing a unit will not in any way have an adverse effect on the retail offering.”
Supporters also told the council to “think outside the box”.
The proposed bar/restaurant opening hours are Monday to Friday 8am to midnight, Thursday to Saturday 8am to 1am and
Sunday 8am to 11pm.
No objection was raised by the council’s public health and protection team with regards to the opening hours.
Planning officers have recommended the plans be approved by the committee on January 31.