Agenda item

22/01200/FUL Imperial Gardens, Promenade, Cheltenham


The Planning Officer, Victoria Harris, presented the report, which related to the erection of temporary structures in connection with festivals and special events including an ice rink in Imperial Gardens, and was at committee because the council was the applicant.

Speaking in objection to the application, Mr Peter Grimley made the following points:

  • there were two reasons to refuse the application, the first being air pollution and the second being the harm it would create.
  • the design and access document stated that the operator must not use 100% diesel-powered generators, but must instead use either hybrid or biodiesel sources. In reality, there were no hybrid generators big enough to power an event of this size, so it would have to be biodiesel, probably HVO (hydrotreated vegetable oil)
  • last year’s ice rink consumed 34,540 litres of red diesel over 42 days, emitting 100 tons of CO2 – an unacceptable amount by the council’s own admission.
  • running on HVO for 46 days this year would be equivalent to 40 on red diesel, which surely could not be acceptable if 42 were unacceptable last year.
  • the application was based on erroneous or insufficient data, and failed to recognise the limitations of biofuels and their effect on local air pollution.
  • in 2013, when the committee granted permission for the current 70 day period, it stated that this was the appropriate balance between allowing use of the gardens to continue while protecting the amenity of the site, the locality and the local community
  • more than doubling the permitted event days would destroy that balance and protection and double the harm.
  • this proposal ignored previous planning decisions, policies and legislation.
  • it was not 75 days but rather 145 of significant harm, and there was no clear and convincing justification for this.
  • it ignored the requirement that great weight be given to the asset’s conservation.


Member questions

In response to questions from Members, the Planning Officer confirmed that:

  • the application form stated that the event would close at 10pm each night, though this would be managed through the land use agreement with the council.
  • the applicant hoped a fully electrical power supply would be available next year, but could not guarantee that this would be the last year using generators.
  • the ‘ancillary Christmas activities’ described in the report were still quite vague at this point, though she had asked the applicant to provide more detail.
  • the agreement of the Environmental Health Officer was required for the generators to be used, and if he did not approve then the condition requiring his consent could not be discharged until an agreement was reached.
  • the application was for the principle of the land, and only limited information could be provided as they did not know the user at this point.


Member debate

In debate, Members made the following points:

  • it was unfortunate that the committee did not have any assurances about the use of mains electricity, and a proper mains supply seemed to be some way off.
  • the difference between biodiesel and normal diesel was relatively minor, and biodiesel was very expensive.
  • the noise of a diesel generator would cause particular harm to hotel guests and affect Cheltenham’s reputation as a tourist town.
  • the application was contrary to the council’s recently agreed Climate Change SPD.
  • other venues in the town were more suited to an event of this kind, especially those with mains electricity.
  • there was no doubt that the ice rink and Christmas market would be a huge economic boost to the town, but it was important not to contradict the council’s own climate change policies by allowing generators to be indiscriminately used.
  • the applicant’s promise that they would not use 100% diesel generators was not reassuring without greater detail, as this could technically mean 99% diesel.
  • they needed to mitigate the environmental impact and judge whether it met their high standards, and this could not be done without a full picture of the situation.
  • when the 70 day period was agreed back in 2013, it was clearly stated that this would never increase again, but now they were looking at a further 75.
  • generators produced carbon fumes in what was meant to be a carbon neutral town.
  • the ice rink damaged the grass in Imperial Gardens.
  • it was good to see a large number of visitors to a park that was not used much in December and January, but any negative effects like the damage to flowers and grass needed to be mitigated in compliance with the Environmental Health Officer’s requirements.
  • residents had been vocal in their concerns about noise.
  • there needed to be some assurance that they would not find themselves in the same situation again next year.


The Chair suggested that there were two possible courses of action: deferring the application until they had more information, or approving it with tightened conditions regarding the electrical supply and the length of the permission.

One Member cautioned that deferral might effectively be rejection considering the time pressure, and another Member noted that a provider would not be found unless the application was approved in principle. The Head of Planning added that the Environmental Health Officer had already given feedback on the application, so deferral would be unlikely to bring any greater detail from him. Members’ concerns about the future electrical supply could, however, be controlled by condition.

One Member suggested that the key problem was the generators. If Environmental Health were to have a significant objection to them then the plan would not progress. Another Member responded that it was not just about the generators, with other factors including conservation and the damage to the gardens.


Vote on deferral:

FOR: 2






The Head of Planning explained how the specific issues with the application that Members had raised could be solved through conditions. A condition could be imposed ensuring that diesel generators were not used, while another could ensure that generators of any kind were only permitted for one year rather than in the two following years as well. They could also specify a particular type of generator, in consultation with the climate change team.

He suggested amending condition 5 as circulated to require details of what exactly they were approving, in consultation with the climate change team. A condition would also be added which retained the three-year consent but only allowed generators in the first year. The precise wording of the conditions would be delegated to the Chair and Vice-Chair.


Vote on the proposal to permit with tighter conditions applied:

FOR: 7





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