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Appeal: Dock restaurants scheme outweighs houseboat owner’s human rights

Bristol Docklands / iStock: 697093542

Plans to restore two historic waterside docking sheds in Bristol as restaurants can go ahead after an inspector backed the council in its attempts to relocate a nearby houseboat against the will of its owner.

LOCATIONOld City, Bristol
AUTHORITYBristol City Council
PROCEDUREWritten submissions

The appeal concerned two former transit sheds in Bristol's Old City area, positioned on a section of listed harbour wall along the dockside. The sheds were built in the mid-20th century, but the harbour wall dates to the 13th century, an “important remnant of Bristol’s maritime history”. The site sits within the City & Queen Square conservation area, and is adjacent to the Redcliffe conservation area.

The appellant sought permission to restore the sheds using traditional materials to form three restaurant units. Cantilevered decking would also be added to the harbour wall to create an outdoor seating area suspended over the water. 

The decking portion of the scheme would involve alteration works to part of the listed harbour wall. Inspector Neil Pope considered that this would amount to less than substantial harm to be weighed against any public benefits. 

He noted that the scheme would secure the reuse and restoration of vacant buildings, the proposed outdoor seating area would allow diners to “better appreciate the historic waterside features” of the area, and the “thoughtfully considered design” would improve the character of the area, adding vibrancy and interest. These benefits were afforded greater weight than the harm to the harbour wall.

The site sits within a designated cumulative impact area, where businesses that intend to open in the evening will not be permitted unless it can be shown that they would not cumulatively impact on residential living conditions. The policy allows for discretion in determining “family-friendly” applications, however.

The appellant argued that the restaurants would place an emphasis on food rather than late-night drinking. Pope considered that although the scheme would increase noise and activity in the area, some disturbance during the evening “is to be expected” when living in a city centre location.

A houseboat, the Ebenhaezer, is docked along the harbour wall close to the proposed decking. Considering that its occupants would be unacceptably disrupted by the planned outdoor seating if the appeal were allowed, the council sought a negatively worded condition enforcing the houseboat’s removal before works start. It indicated that it was exploring a number of options to facilitate the boat’s relocation, including court action.

The owner indicated that she has lived on the site for more than 21 years with no desire to move, and to remove the boat would interfere with her human rights. Although he acknowledged the “stress and anxiety” caused by attempts to move the family, Pope considered the council’s actions justified in light of the scheme’s public benefits.

In his conclusion, Pope stated that he had “not set aside lightly” the extensive local opposition to the scheme. However, after finding that the scheme would accord with the development plan as a whole, he allowed the appeal.

In a separate decision, Pope ordered an award of costs against the council for producing insufficient evidence to support its stance that the scheme’s benefits did not outweigh its adverse effects.

The inspector‘s decision – case reference 3180440 – can be read here.

Image credit | iStock



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