BRIDGEND council has warned two pub owners they may need to remove decking which they built to keep the business afloat during the pandemic.
Co-owners Sadie and Kayleigh Davies built a seating and bar area at The Blaenogwr, Nant-y-Moel, Bridgend and said it saved the pub, particularly when restrictions only allowed outdoor gatherings.
Sadie Davies received a letter from Bridgend Council two weeks ago, telling her the decking requires planning permission, which she said is “not fair at all”.
Planning permission is needed because the decking is a commercial structure of a certain size that is close to residential properties, according to a council spokesman.
Sadie and Kayleigh, who’ve run the pub for over six years, spent around £7,000 building wooden decking with seating and a bar in the beer garden last summer and opened it to customers in mid-July.
The couple were told they have 28 days to apply retrospectively for plannig permisison from the council, which costs £230.
The new outdoor set-up “has massively helped the business,” according to Sadie.
She said she searched the council’s planning guidelines ahead of building the decking and accidentally followed the rules for residential buildings rather than commercial properties.
“Due to Covid we were only allowed to open outdoors so it was great. We had loads of people coming, everybody loved the decking.
“I’m definitely not taking it down. We just don’t think it’s fair.”
She said the pub has a licence to sell alcohol outside and has previously hosted music events outside in the summer with permission from the council.
“I’ve been using this beer garden for five years and never had any noise complaints from the surrounding neighbours.
“OK, we didn’t use it every day in the summer but we do mini festivals so all day we have bands out there and one year we had 200 people out there all day.
“We’ve always sold alcohol out there as we have a license to do so.
“I still don’t understand the difference if I had a hundred people out there sitting on the grass or a hundred people sat on the decking – either way, I’d still have a hundred people out there.”
Sadie said she was upset that no one from the council had been to visit the premises before contacting her and the officer she spoke to was dismissive when she tried to explain she had a license to sell alcohol outside.
A petition to keep the decking has been signed by over 400 people.
“It’s definitely not an eyesore, it’s definitely improved the area. It’s not too high, it’s not looking into neighbours houses, it’s not overlooking their gardens.
“It was built for us to be able to carry on as a business.”
She said the grass on the beer garden is “lumpy and bumpy” so the couple built the decking to attract more customers.
“It’s very uneven, if it rains there’s just mud everywhere. It just wasn’t a nice place to be sat out there.
“Since doing the decking, we’ve seen a massive difference. Even when we were allowed to open outside, everybody still wanted to go back on the decking.
“We’re probably the only pub in the valley with a beer garden like that.
“We used all our own money to do the decking at the back. We’re not part of a big brewery and we haven’t got the support or a landlord that can pay for everything. We’re paying for everything out of our own pockets.
“For somebody to say, ‘Oh you’ve got a house next door so you can’t have a decking,’ it’s not fair at all.
Without the new set-up, Sadie said the pub would not be able to reopen until restrictions allow them to host customers indoors.
“We could open but we wouldn’t have a bar there to sell alcohol from and we wouldn’t have a place for people to sit comfortably and enjoy themselves without getting muddy or falling over a bump in the ground.
“It makes no sense to me. When I first had the letter I was worried because we’ve always worked with the council’s licensing department and we don’t want to be that pub that doesn’t have a good reputation with its neighbours.
I spoke to my wife Kayleigh and said, ‘I think this is a joke, someone must be having us on’. I felt like there was no help.”
A council spokesman said:
“For commercial structures of this size and scale which are close to residential properties, planning permission is required and we have advised the property owner of the need to apply retrospectively to retain the decking and shed bar.
“The issue was brought to our attention following an application for a Covid-19 Outdoor Improvements Recovery Fund grant.
“There was no need for a site visit as the pubs are closed due to Welsh Government regulations and a photograph of the decking was provided with the grant application.”