The future of a Hawick bar is still hanging in the balance as a dispute continues between its owners and council officers over air conditioning and a series of complaints from a disgruntled neighbour.
Mark and Pauline Deans, bosses of Deans’ Bar in Orrock Place for the last three years, are at a deadlock in their dealings with with Scottish Borders Council planners and environmental health officers over a function room at the back of the venue.
The Deans have been told they must install air conditioning in the bar’s function room despite other businesses in Hawick not facing the same requirement and the room having been used by its previous owner, Hawick YM Rugby Club, for the same purpose for decades.
They say that without the function room, the business would not be viable.
Air conditioning units are prohibitively expensive, they say, so they installed triple-glazed windows in the function room, though they failed to secure planning permission first.
That ventilation requirement emerged after Mr Deans requested retrospective permission to reinstate two bricked-up windows and install extractor fans, an application rejected over concerns about noise disturbing neighbours.
Similar concerns have repeatedly been raised with the council by an upstairs neighbour.
The Deans now face choosing to either shut their function room, potentially putting them out of business, or forking out thousands of pounds for air conditioning units.
They have appealed to the council’s local review body, and it first met on Monday, April 15, to discuss their case but decided it needed further information and adjourned its deliberations until today, May 27.
Appearing at that second meeting, Pauline Deans said she felt her bar is being singled out because of complaints from one neighbour.
She told councillors: “When we took over the bar, we were told we needed to apply for a change of use, even though the property had been used as a pub for years.
“After a long-drawn-out process, we were allowed to open up the front of the bar without the function room, even though the use of that room was not changing.
“We don’t understand how the room has been allowed to be used to previous owners but not by us. Why is it a problem for us but not others? It feels like we’re fighting a losing battle here.
“There’s a neighbour upstairs who is really unhappy that we’ve taken on the property, and since the day we opened, they have been putting in complaints.
“No matter what we do, even if we put in these air conditioning units, the neighbour is going to continue to complain. I don’t think they’ll ever be happy.
“We’ve put thousands and thousands of pounds into this room, which is just sitting there because we’re not allowed to use it, even though it’s been used in the past.
“We’re currently running the property at 50% capacity, and on top of that, the council has slapped us with an abatement notice, meaning we’re not allowed to play music after 11pm.
“We’re being choked here. That’s why we put the windows in, because we thought that this is the last chance to keep this open.
“What we would like to propose is that, rather than spend thousands on air conditioning, we would have acoustic boards fitted over the windows and to use a traffic lights system which would monitor sound levels and automatically cut out the music if it reached a certain level.”
Environmental health officer Lynn Crothers told councillors that she was “not confident that acoustic boards will resolve the noise issues, and further information will be required to make an assessment of this”, however.
East Berwickshire councillor Jim Fullarton asked Ms Crothers if officers are being overly cautious, and she replied: “No, I’ve been out to the premises and, even though in theory they can slice off decibels here and there to make it look like they will comply, we can go out and show it doesn’t.
“An abatement notice was served to Mr and Mrs Deans under the 1990 Environmental Health Act which required all music to be inaudible after 11pm.
“That has been breached three or four times now, and basically another breach will result in a report to the fiscal with a recommendation for prosecution.”
Councillors again decided that they did not have enough information to come to a decision, and have asked the Deans to provide information on the acoustic boards they have suggested installing within a four-week timescale.
The case will then be heard again at the next possible local review body meeting following receipt of that information.
In a report recommending that refusal of permission be upheld, planning officer Stuart Herkes says: “I find that the use of the function room for the accommodation of customers and their entertainment, including music and bands, in combination with the insertion of the proposed windows, has resulted in an operation of the public bar use liable to have unacceptable impacts upon the residential amenity of the nearby residential properties.
“I find that the proposed windows’ installation is unacceptable in itself and that the application should be refused on that basis.”
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