Fight to stop hexagonal restaurant being built on seafront car park

Resident Peter Hadden is one of many opposing the restaurant. PICTURE: Conor Matchett

Resident Peter Hadden is one of many opposing the restaurant. PICTURE: Conor Matchett - Credit: Archant

An application to build a restaurant and toilets in north Lowestoft has been recommended for refusal by town councillors.

The site of the proposed development on the North Denes in Lowestoft. PICTURE: Conor Matchett

The site of the proposed development on the North Denes in Lowestoft. PICTURE: Conor Matchett - Credit: Archant

The planned development for the car park and adjacent land at Links Road on the North Denes was discussed By Lowestoft Town Council's (LTC) planning and environment committee on Tuesday night, with concerns raised about 'poor quality design', environmental impact and the premature nature of the application.

The application was submitted by Peter Colby Commercials, and as landowners and an interested party, LTC's planning committee voted 5-0, with one abstention, to refuse the bid.

The plans include a hexagonal restaurant, with kitchen, toilet extensions and an extended car park on land parallel to Links Road.

Supporting documents for the development said: 'The scheme will provide a food and toilet stop for walkers, cyclists, and visitors, together with externally accessed male and female toilets, not currently available in the area.'

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However, councillors echoed worried residents by highlighting issues surrounding site contamination, gas pipe location, and noise pollution.

Concerns about the impact to dog walkers who currently use the site's car park and the fact the plans show the restaurant facing the cliff were also raised.

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Deputy mayor Peter Knight and committee chairman Alice Taylor both deemed the application 'premature'.

Councillors said the land was likely to be included in the yet-to-be fully discussed East of England park.

LTC's objections are in addition to a recommendation to refuse the application from the environment protection officer for Waveney District Council, which will make a final decision in April or May.

In his official consultee response, Mark Seaman said it is 'inherently not a good idea' to build on top of a former landfill site.

He added the reduced assessment process on the environmental impact of the submitted as part of the application was not suitable for a non-residential application.

He recommended refusal and said: 'I would object to the granting of any permission (conditional or otherwise) until the applicant can demonstrate the site is, or can be made, suitable for the proposed development.'

Historic covenant

At the heart of the opposition from residents is a historic covenant, or agreement, between the previous owners of the land and the then-Lowestoft Borough Council.

Residents and councillors have pointed to the covenant referenced in the deeds of the land between the Fowler estate, Jeremiah Colman, and the council which was made when the land was sold by the Fowler estate in 1891 with financial aid from Mr Colman.

Purchased through the Public Health Act 1875, documents state there was an agreement in place between the council, Mr Colman, and the trustees of the Fowler estate stating: 'the purchased land should be forever kept and used as and for a public recreation or pleasure ground' and prohibits the erection of all buildings apart from band stands, caretaker cottages, and public toilets.'

A Note of Implementation from Waveney District Council written in 2006 and revised in 2010 states that the land under application should be retained as public space only.

It states: 'The council will consider any proposals to accommodate picnic tables and amenity areas and some planting and/or sympathetic landscaping, but for no other purpose.'

Residents' views

Concerned residents of Gunton Cliff, who would overlook the proposed restaurant, have given their views on the application.

Speaking at the committee meeting, Jim Gywther, said: 'This is obviously an attempt to return the site to tourism status. I am not aware that the purpose of this land as open space land has ceased at all.'

Peter Hadden, another resident, said: 'I wonder if in the long term that it is going to be the club room for the holiday village.

'I can't see the need for it at the moment. The other restaurant nearer to the holiday village doesn't enjoy much patronage from the holiday village people so I don't see why this one would be any different.

'I don't see the need for it unless they have a long term plan to expand.'

Other Gunton Cliff residents have said they are preparing to campaign against any development on the land, based on the covenant agreed between Jeremiah Colman and the then Lowestoft Borough Council to retain the land as open or public space.

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