Landlords in court after failing to remove beer garden and smoking shelter

John Butler in the beer garden.

John Butler in the beer garden.

First published in News by , Head of News

PUB landlords have been summoned to court after failing to remove garden structures as ordered by the district council.

John and Lynda Butler have fought for more than three years to keep the beer garden and smoking shelter behind Butler’s Bar and Grill on the corner of Provost Street and Shaftesbury Street in Fordingbridge.

Officers at New Forest District Council first informed the Butlers they were breaching planning law in 2009, and the couple applied for retrospective planning permission for the wooden pergolas, decking and an ornamental fish pond that had been behind the pub since 2004, and a smoking shelter that had been there since the smoking ban was introduced in 2007.

But officers turned down the application and an appeal was dismissed.

The couple put in a second application, which officers refused in June 2010, saying that the area had been granted permission for a car park in 1974 and no part of it was allowed to be used as a garden.

Officers said the smoking shelter is “visually intrusive within the street scene and unduly harms the character and appearance of the surrounding conservation area”.

And they said the use of the land as a beer garden is contrary to the Core Strategy for the New Forest district outside the national park “in that it will result in an unacceptable loss of amenity to the neighbouring residents”.

The pair were ordered to tear down the structures but fought back, launching a second appeal with the help of a planning expert from Bristol.

Mr Butler, 50, told the Journal at the time he feared removing the structures would “kill” his business, as he would not be able to compete with nearby pubs that have gardens.

Mr Butler, who has owned the bar since 2002, also said the loss of the smoking shelter would force 40 or 50 people to smoke on the pavement at the front of the pub every Friday and Saturday night.

But a planning inspector also turned down the second appeal in January last year, saying: “I conclude that the proposed smoking shelter neither preserves nor enhances the character or appearance of the Fordingbridge Conservation Area and the use of the area to the rear of the premises as a beer garden could have a harmful effect on the living conditions of the occupiers of surrounding properties.”

The Butlers were issued with an enforcement notice, but the structures have stayed in place.

The Butlers are due before Southampton magistrates on February 7 charged with breaching the council’s enforcement notice.

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