Agenda item

22/01473/FUL and 22/01473/LBC The Swan, 35-37 High Street, Cheltenham, GL50 1DX


The Planning Officer, Claire Donnelly, presented the report, which related to the retention of a temporary structure within an enclosed rear courtyard for up to two years. The application was at committee at the request of Cllr. Tailford because the structures would help a local business during a time where help is needed, and the officer recommendation was to refuse.


Speaking in support of the application, the public speaker explained that he had run the Swan since 2012, enjoyed being a part of the Cheltenham community and hoped to continue doing so. The business employed 14 local people and had a strong policy of supporting local businesses and local independent suppliers, in order to build a better, more affluent and more characterful town. The ongoing impact of the pandemic had hit his businesses hard, and they were facing an existential threat for the first time. Another consequence of the pandemic was that some customers were still only comfortable sitting outside. They were not able to sell as much as they could before the pandemic, their costs were considerably higher and they had debts to repay, it is an environment that is very tricky and we need support to continue.


The temporary structures have been a lifeline to the business, enabling it to trade and serve our community in exceptionally difficult circumstance over the last few year. The structures continue to play an invaluable roll in keeping us afloat, providing shelter to 78 covers, when without them we have no outside cover. Without them the business would miss out on trade that the business cannot afford to miss out on, jeopardising the business. Cheltenham has lost around a third of its pubs in my 20 years of trading here and leaving The Swan empty and tenantless now at a time when new capable tenants would be a fool to take it on would be a real risk to its continued existence as a pub, which would politely suggest, is the bigger threat to the heritage of the building and of the town.


The structures that have been put up are temporary and understand the need to remove them in good time and, if they need to be replaced them, it was understood that the applicant would need to go through the necessary planning procedures.  The applicant has  produced a schedule to this effect. The applicant was asking the council for the time and the commercial space to do this. 


The structures themselves are very easy to remove and will leave no mark on the building, it will be as if they never existed. Furthermore the structures are not visible from the High Street and barely visible from St James’s car park, my customers, who have chosen to be sheltered by them, will ever see them. They have sheltered us for the pandemic but there is still a need for them.


Councillor David Willingham – speaking as night-time economy champion made the following points:

           Heritage assets are important, but this decision isn’t just about that the committee

needs to ask what message we want to send out – are we open for business, and willing to support small local businesses?

           It is clear that this is temporary structure.

           Most of the heritage statement is about the façade of the building, the rear is not what we’re trying to affect. Need to support Cheltenham’s award-winning night-time economy, including Purple Flag status for a thriving and vibrant nightlife. Sends a negative message if businesses are not permitted to do something to maintain their viability.

           GDP figures for November have affected night-time economy, hospitality has a huge part to play in economic recovery but operating costs like heating/fuel are so high, making independent businesses especially vulnerable. Challenging festive period, many businesses don’t have the cash reserves to get through early 2023. This application will give them a boost during race week in particular. Small ‘p’ political decision about what message we want to send to business, and it doesn’t do any damage to the heritage asset.


Councillor Willingham explained that he was not addressing the committee as the Ward Councillor but as Champion for the night time economy.



Councillor Izzac Tailford then addressed the committee as a ward councillor for All Saints.  He made the following points:

           That essentially a question of public benefit (economic, social, environmental) vs heritage cost.  Economic – hugely valuable to the local community, reinvests almost everything they make back into local suppliers and businesses, also encourages people to spend in the Town Centre.  Environment - great environmental benefit as they are sourcing everything from the South West rather than internationally.

Social benefit – the Swan is a welcoming and safe pub for everyone in the community, having hosted inclusive LGBTQ+ events. Valuable for people all across the town.

           45% of their covers use this sheltered outdoors area – without it, rain/cold makes this impossible. Also helps people to feel more safe sitting outside as the pandemic continues. Beneficial to public sector equality requirements, inclusive for immunocompromised people or those with other health issues. Without that, we’re removing their access to a safe environment. Temporary design, mostly wooden, can be removed easily. They’re also basically inoffensive, only really visible from the car park. Not a single public objection.

           Supports council objectives – cultural offer, ensuring residents benefit from

gives the Swan the best opportunity to recover from the pandemic and survive as a business.


The Chair moved to Member questions and the responses were as follows:


           The Planning Officer responded that she and the Conservation Officer had met the applicant on-site to discuss if permanent structures could be achieved in the future. The CO confirmed that it could, though full support council not averse to anything going there

           The design as it is now is the concern

           There is scope for other structures on a permanent basis

           The Legal Officer explained that the NPPF material considerations did require Members to give weight to the asset’s conservation, but this had to be balanced against the public benefit.


The Chair moved into the debate, where the following points were made:


           The structures are temporary, will be there for no more than two years

           The Town Hall, for example, is a Grade 1 listed building, this hasn’t stopped us putting structures up around it. Can be done without compromising it as a heritage asset.

           Key point here is that they are barely visible from the front and not in any way obtrusive.

           Covid restrictions may have ended but the corresponding behaviour changes have not, a lot of people still feel safer eating outside. Real social benefits here which we can weigh heavily against the heritage impact

           No public objections whatsoever to this application

           Owner’s business model is clearly something the council should support

           The impact on heritage asset would be more significant if the structures weren’t permitted, as this could lead to the business failing

           Always an emotive subject when the survival of a business could be at stake. We are concerned with planning issues, cannot get sidetracked by other factors. Having said that, the request for a two-year extension while they consider options for a permanent structure (which would again have to come to Planning) is very reasonable, and the social aspect of the application is important. The concealment of the structures from the front mitigates any heritage impact. On balance, it would be preferable to allow it for two years, in the understanding that the owners will bring forward any plans


There being no further comments, the Chair moved to the vote on the officer recommendation to refuse.


FOR: 0




The Legal Officer clarified that the reason for rejecting the officer recommendation to refuse was that the public benefit of the application outweighed the heritage impact.


One Member proposed that the application be permitted.



FOR: 10





Supporting documents: