Chelmsford restaurant calls on support to help fight off demolition plans

The owner of a popular Chelmsford restaurant threatened with demolition for the third time this year is calling on customers to “get behind her” and help fend off demolition for good.

Jane Grogan, manager of Back Inn Time, needs customers’ backing as plans have now been submitted for a third time this year to demolish the city centre restaurant for flats and commercial space.

The bid comes just a month after Chelmsford City Council refused the developers’ second attempt at getting planning permission to redevelop the site.

Developers have also told the authority they will appeal the earlier decision to refuse planning permission for the redevelopment of 13 Cottage Place.

There was an outpouring of support for the American-themed diner after plans re-emerged in May to demolish the restaurant, and Ms Grogan is calling on the same level of support this time around.

She said: “Hopefully it will be third time lucky and yet again we need to get our customers behind us.”

It is not yet clear seen what the authority’s planning officers make of the most recent plans.

In its refusal in July the city council highlighted how the proposed flats would be overlooked by the existing neighbouring properties, failing to provide the occupants of the proposed flat with “suitable privacy and living environments”.

The revised proposal includes 1.8m high privacy screens to the western side of the rear balcony to provide privacy and screening for residents and focus their views south.

Ms Grogan said: “The residents have only got one very small apartment each with a small balcony and they are going to put privacy glass in those windows that are overlooked by the office blocks and a 1.8m barrier in their balcony.

“As soon as I read that I thought my goodness that is no good for people’s mental health.

“The whole premise of this planned development is very insular.”

The second reason for refusal was due to the site falling within a ‘zone of influence’ identified by natural England for likely significant effects on the Blackwater estuary Special Protection Area.

The refusal stated that the application failed to provide information to “allow the likely significant effects to the Blackwater estuary to be ruled out or mitigated”.

Ms Grogan added: “The way it is laid out at the moment is all the balconies are all overlooked by someone – it doesn’t matter to us that people overlook us.

“But it is just not the right home for residents.

“There are already swathes of one and two bed properties in and around Chelmsford that have not been sold or let.”

A statement as part of the planning application said: “The proposed mixed-use development has been designed to make optimum use of the current restaurant and would therefore contribute towards delivering much needed housing in a sustainable location, without causing major visual impact upon neighbouring properties.

“The comprehensive high quality design is in-keeping with the scale and massing of the immediate surrounding context, whilst providing an opportunity to enhance the street frontage and aesthetic quality of the site.

“It also seeks to contribute towards the overall character of this area of Chelmsford.

“Throughout this document there are sections providing detailed explanations on how any possible issues with the initial scheme design have been resolved as part of the design process leading up to this current application. The investigation into a suitable material palette was an important part of the design process.

“After the response from the pre-application meeting, the problems were resolved and a contemporary approach was taken towards the design which was inspired by the site’s local context. The proposal provides a high standard of living, offering an appropriate level of private amenity areas through the form of private balconies which will accommodate a variety of occupants.

“As previously mentioned, the site is located within a sustainable location within a very close proximity to local amenities, schools and also easily accessible by various modes of public transport.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter