Fenland councillors scupper Lithuanian culture, arts and social centre following concerns over smoking and noise
17:35 06 February 2014
A Lithuanian teacher’s plan to run a centre in March for festivals, children’s workshops, drama, quiz and comedy nights and karaoke is in tatters after councillors rejected his planning application.
Rytis Gramantas has carried out the conversion work at Marcam House in Station Road, March, in the hope of winning permission but councillors went against their officers’ recommendation and refused it.
One of the determining factors was a report prepared on behalf of Cambridgeshire Police which questioned where people using the centre would smoke.
“There has not been designated a smoking area for the premises within any information submitted with this application,” said George Sykes, architectural liaison officer from the crime prevention design team at Cambs police.
“If this is likely to be the front of the premises on Station Road (i.e. the public highway) then this will cause a significant obstruction. It could also cause conflict with persons waiting to enter the premises or with members of the public traversing the footpath.
“If the smoking area is likely to be on the fire escape at the rear then noise may have to be considered in relation to adjacent residential premises.”
His report, which also questioned crime and disorder prevention in the area and detailed crime in Station Road in the past year – 53 offences of which 17 happened during hours of darkness- was a deciding factor in councillors rejecting the application.
Although officers had recommended the application for approval – with a number of conditions - Fenland Council Planning Committee voted to turn it down.
However Mr Gramantas has been advised that smoking is a licensing not planning matter and may either resubmit the application or lodge an appeal.
March Town Council objected on the grounds that the balcony of Marcam House overlooked private housing and they also expressed concerns with respect to noise and drinking.
The committee also heard the council had received 18 letters of objections from residents concerned about late opening hours (till 2am on Friday and Saturday).
The new centre would have occupied the first floor of Marcam House above an amusement arcade, newsagents, barber’s and betting shop.
Chief planning officer Graham Nourse told councillors: “The scheme would provide opportunities for meetings between members of the community who might not otherwise come into contact with each other.”
He insisted the club would not have an “unacceptably adverse impact on neighbouring amenity, the vitality or viability of March town centre or the setting of the adjacent March conservation area.”