Pizza restaurant extension refused after opponents and supporters clashed over proposals

A Sunderland restaurant’s bid to improve facilities for staff and customers has been refused by city councillors over fears the development could impact on neighbours.

Earlier this week, Sunderland City Council’s Planning and Highways Committee were asked to consider a planning application for Mama’s Bar-Grill-Pizzeria off Houghton Road.

The venue, which sits within the Houghton ward, had sought planning permission for a two-storey extension to the rear of the property.

This aimed to provide a staff room and store, with a kitchen extension and smokers’ terrace above.

Mama’s Bar-Grill-Pizzeria. Picture c/o Google Streetview

Due to the ground levels at the site, the staff room and storeroom was proposed to be at basement level whilst the kitchen and outdoor terrace would adjoin the existing property at ground floor level.

The proposal also represented a resubmission of a similar application which was refused by the council in February, 2022.

Refusal reasons at the time included the impact of the development upon the nearby residential properties in terms of “visual intrusion”, overlooking, loss of privacy and other matters.

A committee report prepared for councillors this week said the new scheme proposed a flat roof with two roof lantern lights, rather than previous plans for a “lean-to roof”.

During public consultation on the resubmitted plans, 50 letters of objection and a petition in opposition were submitted, against 29 letters of support.

Back in June, 2022, councillors on the Planning and Highways Committee voted to defer a decision on the plans to allow members to visit the site.

Arguments for and against the proposals were put forward again when the application returned to the committee for decision on Monday, July 4.

Juliana Heron, Houghton ward councillor, spoke on behalf of objectors and raised concerns about noise disruption, potential traffic issues at a nearby junction and the visual impact of the extension itself.

Applicants at Mama’s Bar-Grill-Pizzeria , defending the application, said the proposed site for the extension in a rear yard was “dead space” and would not change the parking situation.

The speaker for the venue added the proposals would improve operations and allow the business to better cater for customers with dietary or allergy requirements, as well as improving working conditions for staff.

Councillors also heard that the smoking terrace would close in line with the restaurant’s ‘last orders’ at 9pm and that use of the area would be monitored to reduce disruption to local residents.

Although some councillors were willing to support the application, the majority of the Planning and Highways Committee voted in line with council officers’ recommendations to refuse it.

This included the proposal having a “detrimental” visual impact in terms of its “size, design and elevated position” as well as “visual intrusion, overlooking and consequent loss of privacy” linked to adjacent properties.

After being put to the vote, six councillors voted to refuse the plans and three councillors voted for approval.

Councillor Melanie Thornton, chair of the Planning and Highways Committee, suggested an amended application for the development could win favour from the panel in future.

Cllr Thornton told the meeting: “I believe that the application, in respect of the kitchen and the changing facilities for staff, would improve business and staff working conditions without a doubt.

“However, I’m minded to go along with the recommendation [to refuse] because of the visual impact on residents.

“I may in future be minded to approve a resubmission of the application without a smoking area and store, I think if that was removed then maybe the majority of the members would be minded to approve the application”.