Tunbridge Wells' The Pantiles owner poised to make changes to eating and drinking al fresco

People enjoying the outdoor dining for musical event Jazz on The Pantiles, which is now Live on The Pantiles, in Tunbridge Wells
-Credit: (Image: Andy Webster Insta its_andy_webster)

The owner of the tourist attraction The Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells has applied to make changes to its outdoor seating. It wants its popular extended al fresco area in place all-year-round.

Permission was given more than eight years ago for outdoor seating for restaurants and cafes in an extended area at the foodie haven between May and September on Thursday evenings only. This extra area is on either side of the bandstand.

When permission was originally given for the "festival seating" - created so more al fresco diners could enjoy live performances on the bandstand each Thursday - conditions were attached by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. Targetfollow wants to vary some of these, saying in years since the conditions were made, the seating had "proven to be a particular success, very much serving to revitalise that part of Tunbridge Wells".

It argued if the festival seating was acceptable between May and September, then there was no "legitimate reason" why it would not be acceptable between October and April. It also wants the condition removed which bars external heating.

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Another rule, which Targetfollow said made unnecessary physical work for staff and owners of restaurants and cafes, states the use of the outdoor seating area must stop, with the chairs and tables stacked or removed, by 11pm. Targetfollow want this to be changed to only the use stopped by 11pm.

It said: "It is the actual use of the seating areas that has the potential to cause late night disturbance (if unrestricted). It is not the physical presence of tables and chairs that generates that potential.

"It is onerous for food and drink establishments to have to put away their tables and chairs at the end of every night – when doing so serves no genuine purpose in the interests of residential amenity."

Interestingly, Targetfollow points out that since the 2015 granting of permission, which would have referenced the Local Plan 2006, The Pantiles has changed and no longer matches the description on which the conditions were made.

In fact, as KentLive reported in November last year, The Pantiles was named one of the UK's Top 10 High Streets for Independent Shops by American Express. And there have been many new openings including Charlotte's on The Pantiles, Essence by Atul Kochhar, and Kypseli Greek Taverna which is from the same family as the co-working Hive on the same site.

In 2006, the Local Plan said there was relatively low footfall when compared to "other character areas" and it was "subject to seasonal variation". It also said vacancy in the area had been "relatively high" but through the introduction of a "great diversity of uses, this has fallen in recent years".

Targetfollow said: "It is pertinent to note that since adoption of the Local Plan, and (importantly) since the 2015 grant of planning permission to which this submission relates, footfall is no longer low, there is less seasonal variation, and vacancy has reduced."

"The Pantiles now represents a particularly successful part of Tunbridge Wells, and that is– in no small part – due to the thriving food and drink establishments, and the outside seating that they provide.

"The success of the food and drink establishments additionally serves to generate footfall and business for the retail uses that are also present in The Pantiles.

"Whilst the proposed changes will facilitate the ongoing success of the businesses that occupy The Pantiles, they will do so in a manner that preserves pedestrian permeability/accessibility, and which does not harm residential amenity. As such, it is hoped that an approval will be forthcoming in due course."

Targetfollow sent in with its papers to the council its own seating licence rules and regulations which it sends to tenant businesses which have a seating licence.

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The elegant Charlotte's in The Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells

There are no comments yet from the public, but Kent Police has given the following matters to be "taken into consideration":

  • Theft of the furniture (if not secured)

  • Use of the furniture to commit crime/ASB e.g. climbing aid, weapon, obstruction

  • Gathering point when the premises are closed if furniture is left outside may have to consider a storage area or other means of storing or stacking when not in use.

  • The external seating zones/areas need to have a clear demarcation set out and public routes/walkways also need to be clearly marked and easy to follow

  • If planters are used they would need to be secured and well maintained as they also could potentially be used the same way as the table and chairs

  • I would also suggest that you have some procedure in place to prevent encroachment outside the designated area for the table and chair

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