With over 20 years involvement in the pub trade, serving the needs of this lovely market town, I am appalled at the borough council’s decision to allow the go ahead for Wetherspoon PLC to proceed to develop the White Hart pub site.
This site is totally wrong for this particular type of expansion, with 17 opposing, adjoining private dwellings. It fronts onto a narrow one-way street with no provision for parking – not even staff parking. There is no off-road delivery drop-off point or off-road access for emergency services. I have no objection to Wetherspoon’s wishing to invest in the expansion of our town, had they have chosen a more suitable site. For example, had the possibility of The Crown hotel, as an existing site, been available, or a new development including parking, etc, no objection would have been forthcoming.
As licensees co-existing with our neighbours, balancing noise and light pollution with current smoking laws, to keep late-night chat noise to acceptable levels, is a difficult task. Consideration for our neighbours’ need for a peaceful life is extremely important to us. I would rather see my neighbours as happy customers, rather than face a constant barrage of angry letters and visits from various agencies, with the prospect of bad feelings, fines and even court cases.
Success in our business is to keep everyone happy, our customers to enjoy themselves, feel free and relaxed enough to socialise both indoors and out.
Compound that by up to 388 people seated outdoors day and night and another 202 seated indoors, with opening French doors through the summer months (as shown on the plans). That is 600 people. What percentage will be smokers outside until after 1.30am all year round?
However, this grand scale plan will not potentially succeed to full capacity. The footfall of Downham is not big enough to ensure the survival of this outlet, and therefore it will depend on trade coming in from elsewhere. With already limited parking and distance from the site, potential customers would rather travel further afield with a guarantee of handy onsite parking.
The town hall will need to ensure that when accepting bookings on a Friday or Satruday night, that the adjacent car park is available for patrons attending.
Wetherspoons PLC keep looking for a better site. I hope you find one that suits your image and requirements better and provides all the criteria for the needs of this small town and gives you the opportunity and the space for expansion and success. We will welcome you.
There is a time and a place for everything, But the White Hart site is not the right place.
Ann L Cameron Smith
Chairman, Downham Market Pubwatch