Sep 30 2011 by Johnathon Menzies, Stirling Observer Friday
COMMUNITY councils suffered a defeat in their battle to stop Wetherspoon’s opening a pub in central Stirling.
Stirling Council’s planning panel approved the change of use for the former tax offices in Spittal Street but the scheme still needs approval from the licensing board.
In an objection letter submitted to Tuesday’s planning panel meeting, Phil Cleghorn, the planning correspondent for Kings Park Community Council, voiced a series of concerns.
“Wetherspoon’s are planning to spend £1 million on a 1960s building which should be demolished and replaced by something more in keeping with the historic city of Stirling,” he said.
He also questioned the need for another pub in the heart of the city and pointed to a potential increase in anti-social behaviour.
The Mercat Cross and City Centre Community Council has voiced similar reservations more than once. Twenty-one official objections were lodged.
The meeting at Old Viewforth was repeatedly reminded that the panel could only reject the nationwide chain’s bid on planning grounds – and that economic and social arguments would have to be aired elsewhere.
Panel chair Alasdair MacPherson said this week: “We can all acknowledge that this is an unattractive building and it has stood empty for some time.
“I welcome this application because it’s a chance for us to find a new use for vacant shops and offices and an opportunity to welcome a major name like JD Weatherspoon to Stirling.
“This development can help improve the appearance of the site and boost the appeal of this part of the city centre, which is also an important tourist route up to the castle.”
Issues such as disabled parking and improving the appearance of the building were among a host of conditions imposed.
The blueprint for the pub, said to have capacity for 800 people, also includes two vacant offices in King Street.
A JD Wetherspoon representative told the Observer yesterday (Thursday): “We are absolutely delighted that our change of use application has been approved and we are as keen as ever to continue with our plans to open a pub in Stirling.
“The planning panel’s decision is a major step forward. The next stage is to apply for the appropriate licences, a process which will begin at the earliest possible opportunity, although it’s too early at this stage to say precisely when that will be.
“We wouldn’t want to say anything as regards potential opening dates at this moment in time as that would be presumptuous.
“But, should the necessary paperwork be given the green light by the licensing board, then it’s safe to say that building work would then start sooner rather than later.
“It’s important to stress at this stage that Wetherspoon’s is absolutely as keen as ever to pursue our project in Stirling and at no stage have we moved from that position.”
No date has been set for Wetherspoon’s licensing board hearing.