Greenway Farm, Wembdon, told to remove ‘dining igloos’ after plans refused

Written by on May 5, 2021

A SOMERSET restaurant will have to remove “dining igloos” from its grounds after being refused retrospective planning permission.

Martin and Susan Felstead run Greenway Farm in Wembdon near Bridgwater, hosting weddings as well as running a restaurant and bed-and-breakfast business.

The couple installed a number of plastic ‘igloos’ in their ground to allow people in small groups to dine outside with food from the restaurant.

But these will now have to be removed after Sedgemoor District Council refused to grant the couple retrospective planning application, citing local residents being negatively impacted by noise from the premises.

The couple applied for retrospective permission to retain three existing igloos, as well as putting in place an additional two igloos and three wooden benches.

In a statement published before the council’s development committee met virtually on Tuesday (April 27), the couple said the igloos had been “hugely popular”.

They said:”The three dining igloos enable us to accommodate up to 18 people in total, adequately distanced, for lunch and dinner in an outside location.

“The igloos are safe, lightweight, movable, weather-resistant and highly appealing – in short, the perfect solution.

“The igloos have proven hugely popular, both as a safe place and for their novelty value; they have been fully booked from August right through to December.

“The vast majority of visitors to our restaurant are mature, respectful people, interested only in enjoying a quiet lunch or dinner in convivial company.”

Mrs Felstead argued that noise levels in the local area had already increased as a result of the redevelopment of the Greenway garage and additional traffic on the A39 Quantock Road as a result of the Hinkley Point C construction.

However, her words did little to pacify opponents of the proposals, who argued local residents’ quality of life was being ruined by noise from the venue.

Derek Perry – a barrister representing a number of local residents – told the committee: “There is compelling evidence of problems with this venue, which will get worse if not dealt with.

“Wendy Lamacraft is 89 – her generation grins and bears it rather than complains. She’s lived in her nearby cottage since 1956 and is happy for people to have a knees up – but when the igloos where in this front garden, it was unbearable.

“It’s a case of an inch being given and a mile being taken.”

Similar objections were raised at a licensing hearing back in August 2020 surrounding the wedding side of the business.

Mike Solomon, chairman of Wembdon Parish Council, added: “We want to encourage the applicant to keep their business going, but this needs to be properly managed.

If the dining pods were in the rear garden instead of the front, the noise impact would have been shielded by neighbouring properties.”

Councillor Mike Caswell said the council had not done enough to monitor noise issues at the venue in the past.

He said: “I don’t think, personally, that there has been sufficient noise monitoring or enforcement on our part – but this has to be done, and this has to be done before permission can be given for these pods. We need a baseline.

“It is a wonderful facility, and the food is tremendous – I would recommend it to you. But it has to come with some responsibility.”

Councillor Li Gibson said the Felsteads should move the pods to a different part of their land and construct them out of a more appropriate material if they ended up becoming a permanent fixture.

She said: “I think another area should be looked at.

“I would turn it down just for being plastic pods – I don’t know why they need them. They should put in something more substantial – I guess they’ve done it because it’s cheaper.”

Councillor Alan Bradford suggested that temporary permission be granted, allowing the igloos to remain for 18 months before the situation was reviewed.

However, the committee voted against this proposal by four votes to ten, with one councillor being unable to vote due to technical issues.

The committee then voted to refuse planning permission for the igloos by nine votes to two (with three abstentions and one absentee), meaning the owners will have to remove them or face legal action.

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