Feathers fly in chicken shop row over claims 'hot food smells' could affect hair and beauty salon

The row of shops where the Chester's Chicken will open in Penwortham
-Credit: (Image: Google Maps)

A fried chicken shop will be allowed to open in Lancashire - despite claims the "hot food smells" would affect nearby hair and beauty businesses.

Controversial plans to open a branch of a fried chicken chain on Penwortham’s main shopping street have been given the go-ahead. South Ribble Borough Council’s planning committee granted permission for the Chester’s Chicken takeaway on Liverpool Road.

The proposal had attracted more than 122 objections from residents – 14 living in the immediate vicinity – and also resulted in claims that committee members were being misled over a suggestion that the shop unit was vacant and proving difficult to fill. The committee deferred its decision on the application back in April because representations from Penwortham Town Council had not been reported.

This time, members were told that the neighbourhood authority had objected on the basis of concerns over the potential impact on nearby flats and the health of school children. The former issue had, in fact, dominated discussion at the April gathering – and was once again a hot topic as the decision loomed.

Andrew Jones, the landlord of an adjacent property, said the proposal would result in “nuisance, smell [and] noise” for the future occupier of an upstairs flat, as well as being detrimental to his tenants’ hair and beauty businesses which are “not generally aided by the presence of hot food smells”.

Mr Jones also took issue with a statement in a report by the council’s planning team which suggested that there was “no apparent appetite for retail use” of the premises in which the takeaway was proposed – which last operated as an estate agent – because it had been “vacant” for over 12 months. He said he had “fielded well over a dozen enquiries” from potential occupiers during that time who had asked him who they needed to contact about renting the property next door to his own.

Mr. Jones added that he was unsurprised by the interest because Liverpool Road had experienced a retail “renaissance”. Howick and Priory ward member David Howarth reminded the committee that while the premises had been unused for over a year, the building had been rented out for much of that time – and so could not be considered “long-term vacant”.

“It’s been fully furnished and occupied in all but name – and has not been available to anyone else to rent in that 12 month period,” Cllr Howarth said. Council planning officials concluded that the proposed odour extraction system for the takeaway – which would be located seven metres from the window of the flat above the directly adjoining retail property – would “not result in noise or odour disturbance to nearby residents”.

Members were also advised by planning manager Catherine Thomas that there was currently no provision within South Ribble’s local plan to to reject takeaway applications based on their health impact – although such a option might feature in the forthcoming joint local plan for the whole of Central Lancashire. Nevertheless, the committee was split over the planning department’s recommendation that it should approve the takeaway proposal.

Cllr Phil Smith said: “It’s a very fine balance between a vibrant town centre and over-proliferation of a type of retailer that takes control of the area and absolutely spoils it.” However, Cllr Wesley Roberts said while he could “see why people don’t want“ the chicken outlet, the committee had “a duty” to consider what was in the best interests of the council and “residents who pay their council tax to us”.

If a decision to refuse a planning application is subsequently overturned on appeal, the authority can face costs. Cllr Haydn Williams agreed, adding that although “nobody wants” the outlet, there was no planning policy reason to refuse it – leaving him with “no choice” but to approve the proposal, which was voted through by a majority.