Chain smokers likely to lose shelters at under-fire pub

ONE of the most historic pubs on Edinburgh's waterfront has fallen foul of city planners over illegal smoking shelters.

The Old Chain Pier in Newhaven is facing legal action after two awnings were put up last year in the wake of the new legislation being introduced.

Council officials are recommending enforcement action against its owners, Punch Taverns, which insists the shelters are "essential" for customers.

But the officials say strict guidelines over retractable canopies have been flouted and the work detracts from the building's appearance.

Punch Taverns today insisted the awnings had been erected by a previous operator of the pub last year. But the firm said it was hoping the council will compromise and allow some form of shelters to remain in place above the terraced seating area.

A report for the council's planning committee said the pub was in an area of special scientific interest and was prominent by being the only property on the north side of Trinity Crescent.

Head of planning Alan Henderson said the awnings put up on the pub were bright red and featured the logo of a brand of beer. He added: "The awnings extend to six metres in length by 2.5 metres when fully extended above the external seating area. Each awning is supported by four heavy and crude hinges which cut across the sign for the premises."

He added that the awnings "when extended are highly visible and dominate the southern elevation of the building. These attachments are not in keeping with the building. The awnings obscure the existing architectural detail and add additional clutter to the frontage of the building.

"Although the original building has undergone significant reconstruction from its former use as a ticket office, by virtue of its location it contributes greatly to the street scene in this part of Edinburgh. Any changes to the facade therefore have a significant impact."

Brian Donnelly, the manager of the Old Chain Pier, said he could not comment on the retrospective planning application in advance of next Wednesday's meeting.

However, a spokesman for Punch Taverns said: "The awnings on the exterior of the outlet were originally installed by a previous licensee.

"As part of a commitment to offer our customers a comfortable and inviting environment we are investigating the options of installing a more permanent smoking solution than the existing offering. Any potential plans will be in keeping with the existing design of the building.

"We are liaising with the local planning authority in order to find an alternative solution. It's essential people smoking outside the pub have somewhere to shelter."

Although the pier at Newhaven harbour was destroyed in a huge storm in 1896, the pub was built on the site of the original ticket office and opened in the wake of the Second World War.

It gained notoriety due to the eccentric behaviour of former publican Betty Moss, who wore bamboo spectacles and reputedly called time by firing a starting pistol and brandishing a sword.

The Old Chain Pier was almost lost for good three years ago when it was gutted by an early morning blaze believed to have been caused by an electrical fault. It destroyed the roof of the pub and left the interior badly damaged.