Restaurant’s fate hangs in the balance

THE future of a Lewes restaurant is hanging in the balance and its fate will be decided next week.

The Buddha Belly, which specialises in Thai cuisine, is seeking to become a “vertical drinking establishment”, the emphasis shifting to being a wine bar.

It has submitted a planning application for change of use from A3 restaurant to A4 drinking with restaurant facilities.

Applicant Nick Brunsdon has warned that the Fisher Street premises will close if permission is not granted - but it has been recommended for refusal by Lewes District Council planning officers.

Mr Brunsdon has gathered widespread support and presented the council with a petition in favour of the application which has 160 signatures.

But East Sussex County Council’s Highways department said the proposal does not and could not provide for adequate parking facilities within the site. This would result in additional congestion on the public highway, causing further interference with the free flow and safety of traffic on the adjacent roads.

Environmental Health also has concerns about a drinking establishment at the site. It said: “Local residents in Castle Ditch Lane and the High Street are considered to be at an increased risk of being disturbed by noise is usage clas A4 is permitted.

“This is because a restaurant, where the consumption of alcohol accompanies a meal where customers are seated at a table, generally generates a peaceful atmosphere. A vertical drinking establishment increases the potential for a raucous atmosphere.

“Critically, the introduction of vertical drinking would be intended by the management to increase trade later at night compared to the existing restaurant, where business (and associated noise) tends to taper off gradually before closing time.

“Under an A4 usage class, drinking would be expected to result in a general increase in noise as the night progresses and be sustained until closing time, when noise can spill into public areas as customers leave.”

One letter of objection has been received by the district council and one letter of support, stating that the proposal will bring much needed trade to Lewes and will generate more business locally.

The scheme is due to be considered by the Planning Applications Committee on Wednesday. Members have been recommended to refuse on the grounds of an increase in noise and disturbance at unsociable hours, an unacceptable obstruction of pedestrian and vehicular use of the adjacent section of Fisher Street and inadequate parking facilities.