A Ribble Valley interiors shop which developed an in-store bar has been granted planning permission for both activities – but it prompted one councillor to warn it risked setting a precedent for allowing “everybody in Longridge to open a bar”.
A meeting of Ribble Valley Council’s planning committee was told DMD Design on Lower Lane, on the edge of Longridge, has become a “community social hub”. But the application for the mixed-use raised questions about noise disturbance, live music and events, outside drinking at the entrance, traffic, disabled access and town centre viability.
Dozens of supporters, and at least one objector, attended the meeting where the application was considered. Councillors said it presented planning and licensing considerations, which are handled by separate procedures and committees.
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Councillors voted to grant Diane Despard, of DMD Design, mixed-use planning permission. Ms Despard, who also runs Longridge Hair & Beauty, said after the meeting that she opened Longridge’s first wine bar some years ago.
At the planning meeting, agent Mark Flaherty spoke for DMD Design. He said: “This is a small independent retailer. The owner used her initiative to overcome issues faced around the pandemic, issues that have been felt more by smaller businesses.
“To secure viability, the owner integrated a small bar into the shop-floor area. Customers can buy alcohol or non-alcoholic drinks, if they wish. This mixed approach is becoming more popular, as shops work to attract customers. Customers stay longer and others come for a drink and perhaps buy something.
“The shop has become a community social hub. The social element is really important. There have been 130 letters in the planning process including from residents nearby. But the bar has not operated since ambiguities arose about the planning situation. The closure has left a big hole in the community.
“This application is simply to allow mixed services and uses, allowing it to reopen. The business will follow all conditions, such as closing at 8pm, and it will not become a standalone [drinking] premises.”
‘Breach and stop notice was issued’
Michael Johnson, who objected, said: “This application follows another matter regarding unauthorised drinking at an outside seating area. Police and licensing officers issued a breach and stop notice. But the number of objections is not reflected in official submissions.
“There is no reference to outside tables and groups of people standing outside. Implications also have to be considered about parties and events. These have been down-played.
“There are questions about live bands and amplified music. Live music and parties cause the greatest impact on neighbours and local traffic.
“What is an ‘organised event’? How does it differ from live music, singing or dancing? There is confusion.”
What councillors said
Labour Coun Kieren Spencer said: “This location sits in the Newton area which was a separate hamlet years ago. There’s a mixture of buildings including commercial, industrial and garage premises. Most importantly, there was a substantial pub which has now been converted into homes. I have read the planning officers recommendation and conditions, which I support.”
Conservative Coun Stella Brunskill said: “I was on the licensing committee when the license was originally granted. The size of the premises was highlighted and tables and chairs outside, where there is a ramp for disabled access. It was difficult for wheelchairs to get passed. Also residents say it has become so popular that people stand outside. If this is passed, I’d like an amendment highlighting these problems and details to stop it happening again.”
Labour’s Lee Jameson said: “I’ll be glad when a decision is taken on this. It’s caused a lot of discussion in Longridge. Yes, it is not in the town centre. But it’s not like bigger pubs like the Durham Ox or the Forrest Arms.
“I sympathise with residents but I’ve also read the planning report. I will be a hero or a villain, depending on different people’s views. But I think this bar can operate with shorter hours. It’s a small bar with G&T glasses and one beer pump. It’s not busy like in ‘old’ Longridge. Yes, there can be problems with cars. But coming along Berry Lane is a challenge too and it effects other roads. I will support this but with conditions.”
Conservative Coun Simon Hore said the licensing committee was the forum to deal with some details. Planning issues were about allowing mixed uses of the building.
“We need to be careful”
Conservative Coun Louise Edge added: “There are separate processes for planning permission, premises licences and personal licences. I am a licence-holder and it’s quite a formal process. We’ve got to be careful.
“We could be saying that everyone in Longridge can open a bar? We’ve got to think about things such as fires, the police etc. There is a process and we should be wary of setting a precedent in the Ribble Valley.”
Conservative Kevin Horkin said: “I commend the owner for trying to future-proof their businesses. Getting over 130 letters of support is an achievement. I know there some questions but I basically support it. Residents should also be protected. All sorts of retailers are offering social experiences now, from garden centres to Selfridges.”
Owner says bar is ‘part of shop experience concept’
Speaking afterwards, Diane Despard said: “I’m over the moon . I always wanted to have a bar in the shop, as the concept. If you go to places like Selfridges, they offer great customer experience. You can browse, have a glass of wine and think about things.
“I’m blessed here with being in a beautiful environment. My customers are professional people. They come to browse, have a drink and socialise. They call on their way home. They’re not drunken, rowdy people. On Sundays, they pop in for a drink then go home for dinner.”
Ms Despard said she opened Longridge’s first wine bar, Quench Cafe Bar. She grew up in Preston but moved to Longridge aged 21. She also runs Longridge Hair & Beauty.
Planning conditions include time restrictions on the bar, music, the outdoor area and a maximum of 12 events allowed through the year, with no more than four in any 28-days. The bar will be used in conjunction with the display of shop products to protect the character of the premises, the residential area and town centre viability.