Published: November 21, 2012
Burnham-On-Sea pier owner's delight at surprise planning victory

The owner of Burnham-On-Sea's pier has this week won her bid to retain a controversial conservatory used as a sweet shop on the forecourt of the landmark building.

At a meeting of Sedgemoor's Development Control Committee on Tuesday (November 20th), councillors over-ruled a recommendation by a case officer to reject the planning application on the grounds that it is 'out of keeping'.

Instead, they gave a temporary five year approval for the building to remain in place while discussions over its future continue with owner Louise Parkin, pictured.

.What Louise Parkin told the council...

"The application before you is, according to your conservation officer, not in keeping with the Victorian sea front at Burnham-On-Sea. Firstly let me point out that The Pavilion is actually Edwardian and that the conservation area has been altered several times to accommodate other planning applications and that the actual sea wall is anything but Victorian."

"The most prominent feature on Burnham seafront is the roof of the pavilion which is white, as is the UPVC frontage of the block of flats built opposite the Pavilion, which is why our extension was done in the same material to blend in with its surroundings. Also note that with 70 mile an hour winds as a regular occurrence in the winter we had to build something substantial."

"Your conservation officer would like us to take the Pavilion building back to it original structure, knocking everything down including our much loved kiosk which has been there for 20 years, but to do so would be financial suicide, unless you want to end up with another Birnbeck instead of Burnham pier."

"Commercialism is what keeps piers going and pays for their enormous upkeep. 50 years ago this year Burnham Urban District Council voted 9-4 to demolish what they described as the eyesore and liability, that was the Pavilion, their words not mine. Obviously that was not ratified at full council but it gives you an idea of what the Pavilion was like when we took it over 44 years ago, a mere 6 years later. It was basically, crumbling away and in the most atrocious condition."

"We have restored it, at a vast cost, to a condition where we were voted by the Daily Express as one of the top five seaside piers in Britain and described by the Times newspaper as the shortest, but prettiest, pier in England."

"In recent years, the catering at the Pavilion has become more and more important to its financial stability and this application affects the vitality and viability of the pier itself. With the atrocious weather this year, without this building, the kiosk would have been closed almost every other day. Whereas we opened up during the February half term and remained open until the beginning of November and will continue to open every weekend and during Christmas and the New Year holidays."

"Take into account that prior to this building being erected, we would have been open for maximum of four months in the summer but even that would have been intermittently due to bad weather. Most of the cafes and coffee shops in town close at 5pm, even through the summer, whereas we are open until 10pm to serve tourist and locals alike."

"I would ask you to consider all of these points before you make your decision but to bear in mind that though it may have been once, Burnham seafront is no longer Victorian or anything else for that matter as it is a hotchpotch of various different styles and architecture."

Louise made an impassioned plea at Tuesday's meeting for the council to rethink its plans to force her to remove the sweet shop from the front of the landmark, which is Britain's shortest pier.

She clearly impressed councillors who unanimously voted in favour of the five-year approval.

"I am not gloating about the decision, but I am incredibly pleased that the council has seen reason," Louise told afterwards.

"I am already in talks with the council about a future replacement for the building and will be looking to make changes in the near future."

Sedgemoor District Council had requested earlier this year that the conservatory be demolished because it was installed "without planning permission" and they issued an enforcement notice.

However, Louise argued that she did not require permission because it is a 'Permitted Development' under UK planning laws for amusement parks.

Rather than embark on costly court action, she submitted a planning application to try and retain the building, supported by a petition of more than 1,100 customers.

Others speaking in support of her application at Tuesday's meeting included Burnham resident Geoff Shickle, who proposed the temporary approval of five years.

He told the meeting: "I believe there is little doubt the people of the town overwhelmingly wish to keep the Pier as a sea front feature. To achieve this, as it approaches its centenary, it must remain an economic proposition."

"The poor summer weather this year has affected this business more than most. To remove the extension and replace it is clearly not affordable. This would undoubtedly prejudice the continuance of the entertainment provided in the main building."

He told the councillors: "Today you have an opportunity to take a pragmatic view and support tourism, by permitting the retention of the building for a period of, say, five years. During which time, given the anticipated improvement in the economic situation, it should be possible for the council and the owners to co-operate in drawing up a scheme for this area which will be a credit to all involved and appreciated by future generations."

Burnham's Mayor, Cllr Ken Smout, said that while he isn't a fan of the design of the conservatory-style building, he was "puzzled" that a bright "red and white shed" outside Sunspot Amusements further along the seafront had been deemed to be acceptable by district councillors earlier this year while this conservatory was deemed unacceptable.

Cllr Neville Jones also spoke in favour of the scheme, raising issues about the impact on tourism and the potential that sea defences would be weakened if the pier were ever to go. Having spoken, he opted not to take part in the vote.

Burnham resident Sarah Milner Simonds spoke against the application, arguing that the modern building detracts from the original pier structure.

Tuesday's decision effectively brings to an end the bitter dispute between Louise Parkin and Sedgemoor District Council, paving the way for discussions on a long-term replacement for the building.



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