Setback for Southend restaurant’s bid to keep beach seats

The owners of a popular Southend seafront restaurant say they are “bitterly disappointed” they were refused a bid to keep seats outside the business and have vowed to fight to keep them.

Owners of the Ocean Beach restaurant in Eastern Esplanade applied for a lawful development certificate for seats which they say have been outside for the last ten years.

Planning officers have refused the application saying it was “imprecise and vague”.

The benches had proved popular during the pandemic with all welcome to use the beach seats rather than just customers. Parasols were provided so that passers-by could shelter on hot sunny days. No food or drinks are served to people seated on the benches.

While the seats were originally installed without formal planning permission, owner, Jonathan Bacon, applied for the lawful development certificate on the grounds they had been there for more than ten years.

Following the decision, he said: “We are bitterly disappointed that the authority has taken this stance. I can only guess that the officer has mis-understood the application, we will re-submit with more information to add clarity.

“It is a shame that the process takes such a long time and that there is no chance for discussion during the planning process.”

Refusing the application, planning officers said: “The application is imprecise, contradictory, and unclear in several fundamental respects.

“The submission on one hand implies that there has been development requiring planning permission for which the ground for lawfulness is that it has taken place for more than ten years. The limited evidence and opinion submitted by the applicant in respect of that claim is imprecise, and vague.

“If that is the basis of the application, the case and supporting evidence is muddled and unclear with no clear definition of whether the placement of furniture is to be regarded as a material change of use, or operational development, or both.”

The officer’s report concludes: “Having taken all material considerations into account, including the relevant legislation, it is considered that the nature and basis of the applicant’s case is imprecise and vague and that the evidence submitted conflicts, is contradictory and unclear such that any operations, use or other matters for which the certificate of lawfulness is sought are not lawful.”

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter