Plans to build a new rooftop beer garden in Chester-le-Street have been given the go ahead, despite concerns over noise and anti-social behaviour.
On April 26, Durham County Council’s area planning committee discussed the plans for a second-storey seating area at the Wicket Gate Wetherspoons pub.
The scheme sparked 29 objections from residents, with the Chester-Le-Street Residents Association (CRA) arguing the plans could lead to over-capacity in the pub, loss of privacy and loud music.
Derek Briggs, representing CRA at the meeting at Durham County Hall, said the pub’s lack of toilet facilities, combined with rising numbers of customers, would lead to more people urinating in the street.
He added that residents living in the area have faced anti-social behaviour for years, with some offenders “leaving faeces in peoples’ gardens”.
“At the weekend and night there are hundreds in and this plan is going to increase it by another 100 on the roof,” he said, referencing the pub.
The objector told the committee Durham Constabulary had tried to tackle the issue, giving out fixed penalty notices to people urinating in the area.
Agent Andy Grundy, speaking in support of the application, stressed that the application had been changed following feedback from Durham Constabulary and residents.
This included plans for larger sliding doors and windows being removed from the application and an agreed time of 9am – 9pm for customers using the area.
He added Wetherspoons’ management policy includes CCTV, staff conducting regular checks on the area and display signs encouraging customers to be mindful of residents living nearby.
“I’m concerned that it’s reported the customers do urinate outside and I will raise it with the management,” he said.
He added female cubicles would be increased from seven to 11 as part of the plans, while male toliet facilities in the pub comply with building regulations.
The new seating area will be built at the pub’s rear, measures 405 square metres and includes a new staircase built and boxed with a glass enclosure.
The balcony area will include fixed seating providing cover for more than 100 people and will be joined to two new fire exits from the existing pub building.
Coun Allan Bainbridge asked the committee if they could make an order to control the volume of the music and whether concerns about urination were a matter of “environmental health”.
The committee heard that anti-social behaviour issues are dealt with by Durham Constabulary.
Principal planning officer, Fiona Clarke, added that the 9pm curfew for the beer garden was supported by the police but that noise complaints would be a council responsibility.
The committee also heard a two-metre glass panel on the balcony aims to stop people “leaning over and shouting” to other customers below.
Coun Alan Shield asked if the panel could be opaque for the privacy of residents with committee chairman, Ivan Jewell adding he was concerned about the panel from a “dignity perspective”.
“If it’s clear glass, is it possible that people could look up from below?” he said.
The committee voted unanimously to pass the application adding an amended condition that the glass panel is opaque.
Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “ We’re always keen to offer our customers the best pub possible and believe the addition of a roof top beer garden will offer this.
“It is also important that we’re good neighbours to residents in the area.
“We are not aware of the issues they raise but would be happy to meet with them to discuss these concerns.”
Durham Constabulary were also contacted for comment.
Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service