Battle over 'tatty tents' outside 131 The Prom rumbles on as Superdry founder appeals enforcement decision

The battle to keep the controversial marquees outside No 131 The Prom in Cheltenham rumbles on as Julian Dunkerton’s Lucky Onion Group has appealed against an order to take them down. Plans to keep the white “tents” which replaced parasols outside 131 and 133 in October 2020 were rejected in November last year.

They were installed outside the hotel and restaurant while planning enforcement against moveable structures was relaxed during the Covid-19 pandemic to allow bars and restaurants to use external spaces and meet social distancing requirements. However, after the relaxation rules ended, initial proposals to keep the structures for a further two years were rejected by Cheltenham Borough Council in November 2022.

And this decision was upheld by a planning inspector in the summer. New plans were later submitted to keep marquee tents there but also to reduce their height by around two metres.

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This would have involved the removal of the ‘central peaks’ of the marquees and their replacement with a lower, domed shaped covering. But these proposals were also turned down due to the impact it would have on the five grade II*-listed Regency buildings located prominently in the conservation area.

Councillors were told in January that an enforcement notice was issued to remove the marquees but they are still standing. Councillor Diggory Seacome (C, Lansdown), who represents the area on Cheltenham Borough Council, has campaigned to have “all those tents outside 131” removed.

“Basically, he’s put in an appeal against the enforcement order which told him to take them down,” he said. “So in this case he put in an appeal. He goes on and on doing it.”

Councillor Diggory Seacome is calling for the marquees outside 131 to be taken down
Councillor Diggory Seacome is calling for the marquees outside 131 to be taken down -Credit:Diggory Seacome

Cheltenham Civic Society, a community group which aims to conserve the architectural and historical features of the spa town, is fully supportive of the council's efforts regarding the marquees. They have previously described them as "tatty tents" and wish to see them removed.

"We don’t think that anything has significantly changed since the planning inspector rejected 131’s tents,” chairman Andrew Booton said.

“So we fully support the council on this. The tents obscure the view of three of Cheltenham’s finest Grade II* listed buildings and we now think they are affecting the town’s reputation and overall attraction.

“Temporary structures are allowable for limited periods under planning legislation. Once they finally have to take their existing tents down, 131 would still have the opportunity to erect some temporary structures to increase its space during festivals such as race week.”

Chris Gomm, head of development management, enforcement and compliance at the Borough Council, confirmed that an appeal is ongoing. “There is an enforcement appeal live in respect of this scheme and the local planning authority will need to have due regard to this once this has been determined," he said.

“In the meantime, engagement has taken place with the applicant in respect of options for a permanent solution and we are awaiting further details.”

Lucky Onion Group has not responded to a request for comment.