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Bid for Cheltenham venue with 200 objections approved

A bid for a new events space in Cheltenham which received more than 200 objections has been given the go-ahead.

A bid for a new events space in Cheltenham which received more than 200 objections has been given the go-ahead.

Comedy nights, art exhibitions and corporate cocktail parties will be held in the basement of Grade II listed building Gibson House, St James Road, where residents feared a nightclub could return.

Gas and Chemistry nightclubs occupied Gibson House until 2010 but the building has laid empty ever since, and residents’ objections focused on previous anti-social behaviour and public nuisances of their customers.

In total, 219 objections had been lodged against the new nightclub including from a nearby children’s nursery, parishioners of a Roman Catholic church, local businesses, residents and the ward councillor.

Cheltenham Borough Council’s licensing sub-committee unanimously backed the application, to open the venue called The St James’ Club, at the meeting yesterday (July 2).

In the meeting, residents expressed concerns about public nuisance and anti-social behaviour fuelled by alcohol sold at the venue, with one local saying a security guard was hired to protect the garden of a block of flats when Chemistry operated.

The applicant, James Elias, told councillors the proposal will “have no impact on the residents”, adding he “understands the concerns and worries”.

In order to prevent public nuisance, there will be a minimum of 30 minutes to finish drinks once the bar closes at night, and the outside smoking area will be managed by a door supervisor and restricted to no more than 10 per cent of the overall capacity at the time.

Councillor Diggory Seacome, who represents the ward The St James’ Club will be, said in the meeting: “Purchasers of a property near a pub know it is there before they buy.

“This establishment is imposed on those already there in what is a fairly residential area, with houses on one side, the street behind, and with two blocks of flats nearby.

“As has been emphasised in several of the objections the occupants of those flats moved here for a quiet existence.”

Charmaine Davis, who represented the 28 residents of Somerset House in Knapp Road, said in the meeting: “Somerset House is a retirement community, most of the people are elderly. We are very concerned about this. When the previous nightclub was there, we had to employ a security guard for six hours every night to protect our garden.

“We have quite a large, secluded garden which is easily accessible from the road. We had instances of noise, drunkenness, urination, defecation and people having sex in our garden.”

Committee chair Roger Whyborn said: “The only way we can pass this is if we try it. It is my view that if we were to refuse on various  grounds that have been suggested, it would be thrown-out on appeal.

“I think a highly-conditioned approach is a far better approach for us to take.”

Mr Elias said: “What I am proposing will have no impact on the residents. The church, the nursery and other commercial businesses in the area.

“I think I’ve demonstrated that with the conditions that I’ve agreed to. The late-night market industry will start opening up now due to Covid-19.

“I understand the concerns, I understand the worry. But this application should be granted for its merits and there should be no doubt that our absolute focus is assuring we create jobs, we contribute to the local economy, and most importantly, we do not disrupt people’s lives.”

The venue will be open between 10am and midnight, Monday to Saturday, and between 10am and 10pm on Sundays, and it would close two hours later on New Year’s Eve, all Bank Holidays and all days on which races are held at Cheltenham Racecourse.

The conditions the committee unanimously approved the application with include:

  1. Maximum 30 minute drinking-up time
  2. The smoking, litter management and dispersal policy will become a condition
  3. There will be no glass recycling after 10pm
  4. There will be no alcohol sales before 6pm, between Sunday to Friday
  5. The events are pre-booked events only
  6. And that there are no evening events on Christmas Eve or Easter Saturday
  7. No admission or re-admission after 11pm

By Leigh Boobyer, Local Democracy Reporting Service 

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