Restaurant Gullane The main course has transformed the garden into a dining area

A RESTAURANT has won the right to turn a private garden into an outdoor dining space, after councilors said it was essential for it to survive in post-Covid times.

The owner of The Main Course, Gullane, has asked East Lothian Council to change the use of the domestic garden, which belongs to the flat above the business, to an outdoor seating area for the restaurant.

However, neighbors objected, with a father of two young children saying smoke from the area “went” into the youth room if the window was open.

And another neighbor argued it didn’t fit the character of the conservation village, which was “quiet and respectful of neighboring properties”, asking councilors how they would feel if a beer garden opened next to their homes.

Candidate Luciano Crolla owns both the apartment and the catering business, and first used the garden for outdoor dining in July 2020.

A virtual council planning committee meeting was told that at the time local authorities were being encouraged to ease rules on hotel businesses to reduce the impact of Covid-19 on them.

The use only caught the attention of planners when a large marquee was erected, prompting complaints from neighbors.

The marquee is no longer in use on the site and planning officers have recommended councilors approve the change of use from the garden to outdoor dining, saying this is in line with council policy.

READ MORE: A family restaurant proposes to transform the garden into a dining room

The committee was told by chief planning officer, Keith Dingwall, that the change was “a natural extension of a well-established business in the village”.

The assembly heard that there had been 20 objections to the change of use filed, complaining about the impact of noise, lights and smells from the outdoor space on the surrounding private gardens.

The Gullane Area Community Council has also raised concerns about the potential impact of noise and odor nuisance on neighbours.

Local resident Clare Walker urged committee members to reject the change of use.

She told them, “This is a massive change in use, not just a natural extension of a business.”

She added: “This development damages the character of this conservation area.

“The neighborhood is currently characterized as quiet and respectful of neighbors’ privacy and the enjoyment of their property.”

‘Floating Smoke’

And neighbor David Lees, who lives next to the garden, said he and his young family were dealing with noise, including swearing, smells and smoke that invaded their home and garden.

He told the committee: ‘My two daughters’ room is about a meter from this garden and if the window is open there is a lot of smoke coming out of it and into our garden.

Ward member Councilor Jeremy Findlay, who called the application after planners recommended it for approval, urged the committee to refuse permission.

He questioned whether the conditions imposed by the council to control the impact on neighbours, including restricting the hours of use of the garden and lighting, would be enforceable.

And he cast doubt on claims that the area was essential for post-Covid business.

Mr Findlay said: ‘It was a successful business before Covid, it doesn’t need that outdoor space to survive.’

However, Councilor Norman Hampshire, planning officer, disagreed, saying hotel businesses in the county had changed due to Covid and many people now preferred to eat out, saying: ‘It going to be a trend in the future.”

Mr Hampshire said: ‘If this business is going to survive in the long term, it needs to have outdoor space.

The change of use was granted on a temporary one-year basis.

A second request for a canopy in the garden, also requested retrospectively, was also granted.

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