OPA Bath Ltd: Proposed change of use from restaurant to mixed use as restaurant, bar and nightclub

This part of the city centre is primarily residential. The block on which OPA is located bounded by North and South Parades and Duke Street is entirely residential containing 65 apartments in 7 apartment buildings as well as a residential hostel for foreign students which has operated on North Parade above the subject premises since the late 1980’s The application, if granted, will cause significant harm and distress to these local residents by reason of intolerable levels of noise and disturbance. For some time, and on many occasions, local residents and local businesses have complained about the noise created by OPA’s operation; indeed they have been the subject of noise abatement enforcement by Environmental Protection officers. We know that local residents will be providing testimony to this effect for the Local Planning Authority to consider. The noise complained of derives from extensive noise leakage from OPA’s premises and noise created by, often rowdy and intoxicated, revellers entering and leaving the building and gathering outside on the pavement to smoke.

It is perhaps useful in this context to quote the Department of the Environment (now DETR) document Planning Policy Guidance:

“Commercial developments such as fast food restaurants, discos, night-clubs and public houses pose particular difficulties, not least because associated activities are often at their peak in the evening and late at night. Local planning authorities will wish to bear in mind not only the noise that is generated within the premises but also the attendant problems of noise that may be made by customers in the vicinity. The disturbance that can be caused by traffic and associated car parking should not be underestimated”

OPA has effectively become a nightclub by stealth. The case officer’s report on their previous application for the use of Parade Gardens as an extension area, 09/01794/FUL,heard in October 2009 contains numerous references to it being run as a bar/nightclub while only having planning permission for use as a restaurant. The most telling reference is in the third paragraph of page 6, “Therefore, this means that a change of use has most likely occurred from restaurant to restaurant/bar without the benefit of planning permission and can still be subject to enforcement action.” OPA now seek to regularise this use by this application. The premises were operated as a restaurant between 1983 and 2007 without adversely affecting the amenity of local residents and this is the appropriate use for these premises in view of the fact that “the premises are very near to premises that are used for residential accommodation” to quote the words of the applicant’s own solicitor.

If the application is granted a precedent will be set for other bars and restaurants elsewhere in the city centre to flout planning regulations, turn themselves into nightclubs and then seek retrospective planning permission. This is not fair to the majority of businesses who play by the rules and show respect for the planning regulations.

TARA has no objection to OPA operating as a traditional well managed restaurant similar to many others in residential areas of the city centre. Our objection is to OPA as a restaurant/bar and nightclub. This application for change of use threatens the delicate balance which exists between businesses and residents in this small and primarily residential corner of our city. This is a noise sensitive residential area and the imposition of a premises who seek to attract the nightclubbing crowd that already create problems in other parts of the city centre is wholly inappropriate