Agenda item

Application No.200475 - Wokingham Family Golf, Finchampstead Road, Wokingham, RG40 3HG

Recommendation: Conditional approval


Proposal: Application to vary conditions 2, 6 and 9 and remove conditions 3 and 7 of planning consent 172979 for the full application for the proposed erection of a single storey extension to existing driving range building to provide catering/bar and toilet facilities, erection of covered bike store and alterations to existing parking layout. Condition 2 (approved details) is varied to include an enlarged southern terrace, new lighting and changes to the building, car park and cycle parking (retrospective); Condition 6 (landscaping) is varied to discharge landscaping details; Conditions 3 (drainage) and 7 (protection of trees during construction) are removed and Condition 9 (opening hours) is varied allow extended trading hours between 07:30 to 23:30 Mon to Sat and 08:00 to 22:30 Sun and Bank Holidays and until 22:00 within external terrace areas, 7 days a week between the months of April and September inclusive.


Applicant: Mr A Williams


The Committee received and reviewed a report, set out in agenda pages 91 to 112.


The Committee were advised that the Members’ Update included:


·           Clarification that the recommendation commencing on page 92 did not include the conditions in number order. The conditions being varied or removed were included first and were followed by the conditions remaining unchanged. Condition 1 (three year period to commence works) and Condition 7 (protection of trees during construction) had been removed as they were no longer relevant as the works had been completed;

·           3 further public submissions in support of the application had been received since the publication of the officer report;

·           A submission from Cllr Maria Gee reiterating her opposition to the proposal was also received, specifically outlining concerns about the enlargement of the terrace and additional lighting. These matters had been addressed within the officer report.


In line with the given deadlines, two public written submissions were received for this item. These submissions were circulated to Members in advance, and noted on the evening. The submissions as provided can be found below.


Mr and Mrs Williams, applicants, provided the following submission in support of the application. “Since opening in April 2015, Wokingham Family Golf (WFG) has become extremely popular with local people and is undoubtedly one of the town’s most valued recreational facilities. Our success derives from our wide customer base and the strong appeal we have to families with young children, friends celebrating special occasions, grandparents with grandchildren and dedicated golfers of all ages.


In terms of outreach work we have an attachment with 8 local schools, providing 180 children from each school the opportunity to play golf whilst running after school clubs in each school and our academy currently coaches around 100 children a week. We are particularly proud of our work with disabled and special needs individuals from Ravenswood.


We have a loyalty to all our customers and knew there was strong demand for a food and beverage operation which is why we embarked on the new clubhouse project. We believe that this is the next step in making WFG the complete experience for our customers whilst simultaneously also creating 5 x full time and 7 x part time employment opportunities for local people.


As a small family-run business, the clubhouse operation has been a significant investment and its success is vital to the longevity of the business. This service comes at an increased cost to the business through additional staff wages, increased business rates and higher operational expenses. For these reasons, it is imperative our operating hours are extended so as to help us cover these costs but, as at present, we will ensure that our activities do not give rise to justified objections from our neighbours (the nearest house being more than 80m away from the clubhouse with intervening fencing and mature planting).


In summary, the extended opening hours will provide us with an extra 20% revenue according to our business plans. We believe this is of paramount importance to our ability to continue to provide our invaluable services (driving range, pitch and putt, adventure golf and footgolf) to Wokingham families.


Now more than ever we are seeing the unquestionable importance of outside spaces for the public to enjoy and the physical and mental health benefits of recreation. As Wokingham continues to expand, the need for businesses like ourselves has never been stronger. We look forward to growing and providing our community with our unique service for many years to come.”


Maria Gee, Ward Member, provided the following statement in objection to the application. “The application to vary condition 9 of PA172979 is to align the opening hours of the bar and terrace with the licensing hours. However, the licensing hours application was made in the knowledge that condition 9 did not allow for this alignment; therefore a more logical approach would have been to align the licensing application hours with the planning conditions. I cannot see why there is a need now to align opening hours, when in September 2019, the date of the premises licence application, there was no need for alignment.


The reason given for condition 9 is to protect residential amenity, and the draft decision notice, in respect of noise, stated that hours of operation were not changed. Arguing that there were no objections to the premises licensing hours is missing the point that residents were at that point protected by condition 9. The need to protect residential amenity has not changed and thus the extended opening hours should be denied.


Extending the opening hours will also have effects on the environment, most specifically (a) vehicles traversing the drive late at night, with accompanying noise and (b) the lighting and noise on the extended terrace. Both will have some detrimental impact on wildlife, especially insects, birds and foraging bats. These effects were not considered in PA172979 with its restricted opening hours and therefore should be considered now, before the application proceeds. The draft decision notice for PA172979 stated that there were no ecological effects and that it was unlikely that there would be any effect on the Thames Basin Heaths SPA.  I would respectfully ask the committee to consider if, in the round, these statements are still likely to hold with respect the current application? If not, then how should this application proceed.


Undoubtedly, Wokingham Family Golf is an asset to Wokingham residents, providing outdoor and indoor family activities.  However, the benefits to Wokingham residents, in general, have to be weighed against the impact that such a facility has on residents closest to it, and on the countryside location. Maintaining a family element does not require extended opening times to a bar and terrace; that extension would, in fact, go against the ‘family’ focus of the facility.”


Members were asked in turn for any comments or queries on this application. Specific comments or queries are summarised below.


Simon Weeks commented that that this business was approximately 350m away from the nearest residential property, bar those immediately adjacent to the business property. Simon added that this was an existing facility which was looking to extend the hours of business for its bar facilities.


Chris Bowring commented that under the Licensing Act 2003, the premises licence could be reviewed should any issues arise. As such, Chris felt that it would be wrong to refuse the application on these grounds.


Carl Doran queried which parts of the application were retrospective. Simon Taylor, case officer, stated that this application was lodged as the applicant wished to seek an amendment to the trading hours. Upon an officer site visit, various discrepancies were identified such as the external terrace, cycle storage, and outside and inside areas. These discrepancies were then addressed as a retrospective element of this application.


Malcolm Richards sought clarification regarding the drainage discharge of conditions. Simon Taylor stated that officers noted that there was no discharge of conditions relating to drainage, and it was possible to discharge this retrospectively if the condition was amended. Drainage was already installed on site, however the business could not operate without the drainage details being discharged.


Rachelle Shepherd-DuBey queried why condition 16 did not suggest that glass waste would be recycled. Simon Taylor clarified that this was not the intention, and the wording would be edited to reflect this.


A number of Members noted their disapproval for the retrospective element of the application, and asked that the applicant endeavour to make all future applications in good time.


RESOLVED That application number 200475 be approved, subject to conditions and informatives as set out in agenda pages 92 to 97, removal of condition 1 and 7 as set out in the Members’ Update, and amendment of the wording of condition 16 to reflect that glass waste would be recycled.

Supporting documents: