Councillors' Attendance Statistics
10/0425/EN/UCU - RIVER THAMES VISITOR CENTRE, RIVERSIDE, RICHMOND (Enforcement Case)
Enforcement Matter - Use and Development at the River Thames Visitor Centre, Riverside, Richmond TW10 6UJ:
1. Development comprising the provision of toilets on a second floating pontoon attached to the primary mooring pontoon for the River Thames Visitor Centre; and
2. Use of the Information Centre not in accordance with conditions attached to planning approval 05/3452/FUL.
Officer’s recommendation: 1. That a new enforcement notice
be served in relation to the floating toilet.
2. That prosecution action be authorised
in relation to non compliance with the upheld enforcement notice
Having declared that he had predetermined his view, Councillor Harrison withdrew from the Committee for this item and withdrew from the room.
The Development Control Officer introduced the item and explained the background of the cases. She drew the Committee’s attention to the addendum which reported the following correspondence from the applicant and the following officer response:
Response from Barry Edwards regarding the Committee Report: a detailed response was provided and this was circulated to all Members of the Planning Committee. The main purpose of his report was to highlight errors, misleading information and to indicate that the recommendation to take further action was flawed. The report goes into some detail in connection with the mooring of a toilet pontoon (Matter 1), the mix of uses and how these were considered to be the same as previously permitted uses (Matter 2) and point by point comments on the detail of the report.
In terms of the main points raised in this report, Officers provided the following information:
· “Most if not all of the matters of substance raised in this rebuttal had already been examined in detail during a three day Public Inquiry. This was presided over by an independent planning Inspector and full opportunity was given to all parties who were represented by barristers. This ensured a very careful assessment of the issues to be undertaken and the Inspector’s decision can be relied upon as the best informed analysis of the activities and development at RTVC.
· Matter 1: The appeal decision has been circulated to Members and the toilet pontoon is considered in paragraphs 7 – 17. Whilst the enforcement notice was quashed for technical reasons this was not because it was argued that planning permission was not required as is suggested by Mr Edwards. The inspector clearly sets out his conclusion in paragraph 14; “Whether the 2006 permission only authorised what was in place at the time, or what was shown on the plans, the second pontoon has therefore been placed beyond the area permitted for any such structure and I find so as a matter of fact.” In paragraph 18 of the appeal decision the Inspector states that the decision to quash the notice does not amount to a grant of planning permission.
· Matter 2: Mr Edwards maintains that the Inspector did not adequately consider the level of catering that was lawful in 2006 and his conclusions that the level of catering was flawed. Considerable evidence was provided on this issue to the Inquiry. Following assessment of this evidence including Mr Edwards’ own statements that all of the usable space at the RTVC is available for the catering operation and 95% of visitors come aboard to make use of that facility (paragraph 39) the Inspector concluded that “I find that the use for the sale of food and drink as an activity far exceeded the authorised use.”
· The onus of proof lies with the appellant and the argument that the level of catering is lawful because the level of catering that occurred in 2005 was fully tested is not accepted. As a matter of fact the catering in 2005 was quite different. The officer’s report for that application states that only 25% of the space was devoted to a refreshment area and hot meals had to be ordered in advance. The report further gives the clear impression that the catering would support the events and functions on the boat. Today the current operators provide hot food 7 days a week to customers who are not attending RTVC events, normally have full access to the entire boat and pontoon and describe the RTVC on their website as a ‘stunning restaurant boat’.
Response to alleged errors and misleading statements:
· Level of use: The evidence of the level of use as measured in ‘covers’ is set out in paragraph 31 and 32 of the appeal decision.
· A dictionary definition of ancillary is ‘subordinate’ or ‘subservient’; the meaning as applied to this site is set out in the committee report at paragraph 22. The Inspector found that the Greedies operation far exceeded this.
· A condition controlling the level of catering was attached to the 2006 permission.
· Provision for toilet accommodation could be provided within the vessel without compromising exhibition space.
· DM TC3 applies to the provision of non-ancillary catering on the RTVC.”
Via the addendum, the Development Control Officer reported the receipt of the following late letters of correspondence:
Zac Goldsmith MP – Has written as patron of the REIC to oppose the enforcement action and states that the RTVC is a valuable river-based project. He states that the provision of toilets is essential to support the catering facilities and will be the only facilities on this stretch of the river.
2 Further emails from Mr Edwards: Copy email to Director of Environment and excerpt of policies. Circulated to Members in advance.
· Questioning meaning of the term ancillary
· Re-iterating view that current catering is in accordance with approval.
· Stating that the financial income from catering is essential to the continued operation of the RTVC.
· Toilets essential for centre.
Richmond Environmental Information Centre
· Toilets essential for centre and are a public benefit for users of the riverside.
7 emails and letters received opposing enforcement action from members of the public and individual members of REIC. These letters have been circulated to Members of the Planning committee and the main points are summarised below:
· Allegation that catering is more than ancillary is an expression of opinion only.
· ‘Ancillary’ is a difficult term to understand.
· Comments from the Richmond Society may not be representative.
· Have enjoyed facilities onboard for talks and exhibitions and if it were to close it would be a loss to the public at large.
· Without small amount of catering the facility would not be viable and toilets are required to make it legal.
· The toilets are a valuable facility.
· RTVC acting within its 2006 planning consent.
· Strong support for the centre in the current planning context
· Use is in accordance with London Plan policies and MOL, and TPA policies.
· Has no material or significant effect on river or riverside views.
· Grandiose river centre rightly quashed but RTVC suitably modest, needs catering and toilets to survive and should be supported.
· RTVC enhances river facilities as an educational centre and an offshore restaurant
· At the time of visit 8 or more others enjoying food with true river atmosphere.
In terms of the main points raised in these subsequent submissions, Officers provided the following information via the addendum:
· The assessment of whether the catering was ancillary was the subject of evidence at Inquiry and on the basis of all evidence the Inspector concluded that the catering far exceeded what was permitted (para 39 of appeal decision)
· The enforcement action is not intended to restrict the use of the information centre and exhibition centre as such
· The Planning Inspector stated that financial support does not mean the catering use is ancillary (para 40 of appeal decision)
· The level of catering is significantly in excess of that in 2006; this was carefully evaluated at Inquiry.
· A toilet could be accommodated within the vessel and only requires a cubicle not much larger than 1.2m x 1m. The outside walls could be used for exhibition space and will have little impact on the space available for the information centre.
· The principle policy that needs to be satisfied is MOL policy which is very restrictive as set out in the report and the new policy DM TC3
A letter had been received from the River Thames Society in support of enforcement action, raising the following points:
· Support for action that supports the protection and appreciation of the River environment which is highly valued as shown by All-in-One survey.
· Aims of Society to encourage use of the River for all purposes and it initially supported the RTVC
· The difficult access (unsuitable for wheelchairs), facilities and the increasing refreshments use has made it unsuitable for regular use by the RTS.
· Toilets are normally found below deck or on land and it is inconceivable that a similar structure would be approved for boats moored a few yards away in front of the old Town Hall
· There are numerous River Centres on the Thames providing extensive outreach and river related education, these are well staffed and funded and do not rely on funding by a Café.
· “The Richmond Venturer” moored near Kingston Bridge started by the Mayor of Richmond provides education classes for school children, special needs groups, ex-servicemen etc. 5 days a week and open days at the weekend for the public.
· The Thames Explorer Trust based at Chiswick provided river related education resource and meeting space for 12,000 last year.
· RTVC has a static and outdated poster display primarily concerned with the old pool site, some notices from REIC and some local information and is limited in the outreach work it can do.
· The RTVC Web site reference to outreach work with children has not been updated since 2006.
· It hosts occasional meetings of REIC
The Committee heard representations in support of enforcement and prosecution action from Ms Pereira, a local resident and trustee of the River Thames Boat Project; from Mr Robinson, a representative of the Richmond Society, and from Mr Hallett, a nearby resident.
The Committee heard representations against the enforcement and prosecution action from Mr Edwards, the premises owner; Ms Wenman, the partner of the premises owner, and from Mrs Bailey, a centre user.
The Committee heard a representation from Councillor Naylor who spoke as an interested Councillor.
The Committee considered the information provided within the report and the addendum and the points raised by speakers. Members discussed whether it would be beneficial to defer the enforcement or the prosecution action. It was noted that the premises owner had been given several months to comply with the existing enforcement notice in relation to the sale of food and drink; that the Planning Inspector had deemed this enforcement notice appropriate and had declined to extend the compliance period; and that the planning department had provided advice to the owner about regularisation but that no action had been taken. Members also discussed the design and siting of the floating toilet; whether toilet facilities could be sited at an alternative location; and whether it detracted from the river setting. It was considered that there was no overriding benefit in deferring the prosecution or the formal enforcement action and Members did not support a resolution to defer action.
It was RESOLVED:
1. That an Enforcement Notice be served to secure the removal of the unauthorised floating toilet pontoon. The requirements of the notice to be the removal of the additional floating pontoon and toilet block and associated services and means of attachment from the mooring. The period for compliance be 56 days. In the event of this notice taking effect and compliance not being adhered to, this item will not come back to the Committee and will proceed to court.
2. That prosecution action be authorised in respect of the non compliance with enforcement notice “B” (Stop using the RTVC as a café and restaurant and restrict the sale of any food and drink so that it is purely ancillary to the permitted use as an information and /or exhibition centre.)