A LICENSED restaurant won’t be coming to Uplands in Swansea after a planning inspector dismissed an appeal.
Julia and Nigel Hill wanted to convert the former Dixey opticians from retail to restaurant and cafe use, and upgrade the building.
Ideas had included a Thai or steak venue – and more latterly an organic farm food restaurant.
Their application was turned down by Swansea Council, which said retail in the area – a designated district centre – was being undermined by an increase in restaurants and bars.
Two petitions opposing the application were signed by 32 people.
Mr and Mrs Hill appealed the decision, saying the empty opticians on Uplands Crescent had been marketed unsuccessfully for retail for well over a year, and that no prospective tenants wanted to live in the first and second-storey flats above.
Their appeal statement added: “The council appear to be trying to retain a retail function at all cost.
“Whether the council like it or not the retail market has changed forever.
“The premises is too small for large national chains and online shopping has decimated small boutique-type shops.”
The area, they said, had instead become a coffee, lunch and night-time destination.
The appeal statement added: “This has caused conflict with some local residents, however it has undoubtedly created a vibrant commercial area which provides local residents with high-class local venues to visit.”
Planning inspector Aidan McCooey’s said restaurants and bars had their place in district centres. But he said it was “the number and over-dominance of non-retail uses that must be controlled in order that the centre fulfils its shopping role”.
Mr McCooey added that the proposed restaurant-bar would have resulted in four such premises in a row, which contravened a Swansea planning policy for district centres.
The Welsh Government-appointed inspector noted that Mr and Mrs Hill intended the venue to open during the day, not just in the evening.
But he added: “However, there is no guarantee that the actual tenant or future occupier will operate in this manner.”
Businesswoman Jayne Keeley, whose children’s clothes shop Rainbow Clothing is next to the former opticians, said she would like to see more day-time retail trade in Uplands.
But she said she also didn’t want to see empty boarded-up units.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” she said.
The area has been in semi-hibernation during the coronavirus lockdown, and Ms Keeley said she was looking forward to safely reopening her shop on June 22.
“I’m excited that I’m able to make that decision myself,” she said. “I could have done it weeks ago. I’ve got a buzzer entry and can have one in, one out.”
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