23/00372/FUL Pittville Pump Room, East Approach Drive, Cheltenham, GL52 3JE
The case officer introduced the application which, following refusal of an earlier proposal, was now seeking a 20-month extension for the temporary structure from the date of submission, together with changes to the roof, and more detailed information regarding the use, public benefit, and action plan. Concerns remain, but officers consider the public benefits outweigh the less than substantial harm caused by the structure.
Neighbour, in objection
The neighbour said the structure was put up in secret, is noisy and intrusive, and gives a clear view to his house. The excuse was that it was temporary, although it was unsuitable for use in a pandemic, being crowded and poorly ventilated, and is now infested with rats. In a published statement in 2021, the CEO indicated that the structure was to be a permanent offering, and applied for planning permission. The temporary permission was extended until 2022, when an application to extend the time period further was submitted and refused but not enforced. This application talks about three options, but only Option 1 is viable. Changes to the roof from white to clear glass will make no difference to the visual damage and be an environmental disaster, too hot in current weather conditions and freezing in winter. The first view of the Pump Room from West Approach Drive aspect is now a greenhouse, rubbish bins and catering trollies. Planning regulations in conservation areas are strict – he was not allowed to change a window in his own GII-listed house - yet the Trust is allowed to install this giant greenhouse on a GI-listed building.
Agent, in support
The agent began by reminding Members that this is a temporary application; the intention being to develop a permanent solution whilst securing an income to help maintain the Pump Room. Following the previous refusal, the Trust has engaged with planning and conservation officers, the Civic Society and Historic England to explore changes that will reduce or mitigate the recognised less than substantial harm to the setting of the Pump Room. Clarification of the Trust’s short- and long-term future plans have been provided, focussing on the café, and a timeline for delivery of a permanent solution provided. Different options re. siting and configuration have been considered, but this is the most appropriate, resulting in a low level of localised harm to the conservation area, Pump Room and Park outweighed by the public benefits. Accommodating a café within the Pump Room would result in the loss of half its available floor space for events, and a significant income stream. The café enjoys great public support, demonstrated by the letters and petitions, and was at the centre of the King’s Coronation community event, attended by 13,000 people. The Trust is committed to helping CBC develop its heritage strategy, and the café helps promote this asset, achieving all the objectives of Key Priority 4 of the council’s Corporate Plan.
In response to a Member’s question, the legal officer confirmed that the structure was permitted at a time when the government relaxed enforcement legislation in relation to outdoor development, to assist businesses during the pandemic. Although that legislation is no longer applies, and the subsequent application to extend the time period was refused, enforcement is discretionary, and it isn’t unusual to put it on hold while an applicant works on an application to remedy a situation. There is nothing out of the ordinary with this application, and process has been followed.
The case officer added that there was a lot of information in the supporting planning statement to explain why the café was needed; ultimately, income from the café is used to sustain the Pump Room and other buildings of the Trust, as well as all the events it puts on for visitors, tourist and locals.
The Chair confirmed that, although there was no photograph showing the view of the Pump Room from the front, Members on Planning View stood by the lake and looked towards the building – they could not see the café, as it was obscured by the bandstand and trees.
In debate, Members made the following points:
- the view from West Approach Drive is the most affected, but unfortunately there is nowhere else for the café to go. Most people approach the Pump Room on foot from the south side, and there is no great harm to the full magnificence of that aspect, with the bandstand and yew tree obscuring the café;
- before the café, the council regularly bailed out the Trust because it was unable to produce the funds it needed; this was unsustainable, and unreasonable that tax payers should need to support it. With problems at the Town Hall as well as the Pump Room, to cut off this income stream could be disastrous for Cheltenham;
- all decisions must balance both sides of the argument, and whilst appreciating the heritage arguments, the greater public good and overall benefits must be taken into account;
- the 20 months will pass quickly with no great harm done, but this must be the very last temporary permission, while a permanent solution is found. The Trust must get its finances in order to secure the Pump Room’s economic future and carry out the job the council has asked it to do;
- not much has changed from the previous application: the toilets, bins, and storage container should not be on view next to a Grade I listed building. A café inside the Pump Room isn’t suitable, but to allow the Trust to keep this temporary structure when other businesses in Cheltenham have been told to remove theirs is the height of hypocrisy. There is an appeal pending on temporary structures at a Grade II listed building in town, but we need to say enough is enough. There are three places in Pittville Park to buy refreshments.
- while there are other places to get coffee in Pittville Park, these don’t generate income for the Trust;
- the difference between this and the GII-listed building in town is that there is it has alternative accommodation inside and is a profitable business without the tents;
- life has moved on since Covid, and it’s great to encourage people to use Cheltenham’s wonderful parks and enjoy the magnificence of the Pump Room. If this enables the Pump Room to be used for other things, it has to be good;
- there are many conflicting issues, but the Pump Room has some of the best acoustics in the country for classical music, and it is patently obvious that it cannot be a dual or triple purpose room, with it already being used for conferences, music and weddings;
- it is scaremongering to suggest that the council may have to sell the Pump Room. The Trust won’t collapse without the café, and there is room elsewhere in the park for a catering unit. The planning authority must think carefully, as people may judge that the rules that apply to everyone else don’t apply to us;
- there is a lot of support to keep the café, and the Pump Room is an expensive building to maintain. Very few such buildings could be funded by cash-strapped councils without a similar facility or coffee shop. This proposal is not unreasonable;
- this is an important application, and different from the previous one, which did not include enough information, any explanation of why the café could not be inside the building, or evidence of engagement with Historic England. This application demonstrates significant engagement with all parties, and it is interesting to note that Historic England’s comments are positive about a lot of what the Trust is doing to the building. There are clear reasons why a café cannot be relocated inside the building, and the Trust seems to be dedicated to finding a long-term solution within 20 months;
- the proposed glass roof will not make a difference to the appearance of the building and make it unbearable in hot, sunny weather. This condition should be dropped.
Vote on Councillor Baker’s proposal to drop the condition regarding a glass roof, seconded by Councillor Wheeler – CARRIED
Vote on officer recommendation to permit, excluding the condition regarding the glass roof
9 in support
1 in objection
- Officers report 23-00372, item 8. PDF 738 KB
- Representations 23 00372FUL, item 8. PDF 249 KB
- Pittville Pump Room - 23-00372 - presentation, item 8. PDF 5 MB