Councillors threw out a planning application today because they were worried that a specialist whisky company was trying to set up a pub “by stealth”.
Members of Brighton and Hove City Council’s Planning Committee rejected Woolf Sung Limited’s plans for a change of use of the former Trafalgar Wines shop in Trafalgar Street, Brighton.
Councillors were not opposed to physical changes to the building, which is between Brighton Magazine and Wax Factor.
But they objected to a “change of use” from a shop, known as A1, to a mixed A1 and A4 unit, where customers can drink on the premises.
Green councillor Lizzie Deane’s representation on behalf of North Laine residents was read to the committee at a virtual meeting this afternoon (Wednesday 6 May).
She said: “Local residents do not want this premises to become a drinking establishment when there are already many outlets for alcohol along Trafalgar Street.
“The premises has a licence for off-sales but if the outside space were to be used for drinkers, it would inevitably create noise and disturbance in a densely populated area.”
Councillor Deane, who is a member of the council’s Licensing Committee, said that, without a food offering, it would effectively be a pub – and in the council’s “cumulative impact zone”, where new licences are restricted, which would make it against council policy.
Planning consultant Luke Carter, from Brighton firm Lewis and Co, spoke on behalf of Woolf Sung, which is owned by Sebastian Woolf. Mr Carter said that the reason for the application was to allow an area for tasting and sampling whisky.
He said: “The applicant is a well-respected and established whisky supplier who has lived in Brighton, including the North Laine, for more than 10 years.
“His main business is supplying exceptional whiskies from around the world to top restaurants and hotels around the UK.
“He does not intend to operate a run-of-the-mill off-licence offering cheap booze and cigarettes. Or a pub and drinking establishment with pints of beer.”
Mr Carter said that he had researched the history of pubs in Trafalgar Street and found that today there were half as many as 100 years ago.
Today there were four, out of 40 shop units, but 100 years ago there were nine pubs, wine merchants, a beer seller and brewery.
He said that the company wanted an outside seating area which it would close at 6pm.
Labour councillor Daniel Yates was concerned about seating for seven people and something akin to a bar area.
He said: “As far as I can see from the plans that we have been given, I can’t see how this can operate as a shop.
“I can see spaces for people to sit down and consume alcohol. There are 16 seats in the basement, seven outside, six on the ground floor. What I can’t see is a shop anywhere.”
Mr Carter said that there would be three small tables in the outside area with stalls for two people at a shelf.
Green councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty said that it was a “pub by stealth” and there were more reasons to vote against it than for.
He said: “It’s not going to be a shop with a pub attached. This is a back-door pub. It comes in an area where we know we have too much drinking and the problems associated with that.”
Independent councillor Tony Janio supported the plans, saying that they were “terrific”.
He said: “I’m sure people will appreciate the neatening up of the area.
“The use seems fantastic. I will be voting for this very imaginative use of a drab old building.”
Councillors voted six to four to refuse planning permission on the grounds the application would lead to increased noise and nuisance and the primary use would be a drinking establishment, resulting in the loss of a shop.
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