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Gower cafe ordered to remove small area of decking and fencing

This area of raised decking and the wooden fencing on the right at The Lookout cafe in Gower must be dismantled (Pic: Richard Youle)

A FIVE-YEAR planning dispute about a small area of decking and fencing at a Gower cafe has run its course after a planning inspector has ruled it must be taken down.

Steve Lancey, joint owner of The Lookout cafe, Rhossili, said he was “gutted”.

The raised decking has slightly better views towards the bay and Rhossili Down than the adjacent paved area and catches a bit more sunlight.

The Lookout cafe Rhossili, with the raised decking on the left (Pic: Richard Youle)

Mr Lancey said he and fellow owner Simon Morris would never have put it up if they realised it was going “to cause such a palaver”.

Referring to the planning inspector’s decision, he said: “We just can’t believe it. It’s cost us thousands (of pounds) fighting it.”

Mr Lancey said they didn’t know they needed planning permission in 2019 when they erected the fencing and the decking, which he said was 58cm high, by the wall separating the cafe from a neighbouring property. They applied to Swansea Council to retain the timber structure but the council turned it down on the grounds of “unneighbourly development” which negatively impacted the neighbour’s privacy.

The Gower Society objected to the application, saying the work had taken place without consent and claiming that the applicants had shown “scant regard” for the neighbouring property and the appearance of “this iconic village”.

Three planning applications, two appeals and an enforcement notice later Mr Lancey and Mr Morris have been told by a Welsh Government-appointed inspector to dismantle the decking and fencing.

The duo’s planning agent had argued that a previous planning inspector said the decking and fencing, along with a proposed glazed screen on top of the boundary wall, would avoid harmful overlooking. The inspector did, however, say the glazed screen would fail to preserve the Rhossili Conservation Area and Gower Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty.

Customers of The Lookout cafe enjoying a coffee on the decking (Pic: Richard Youle)

Mr Lancey and Mr Morris proposed a more aesthetic way of capping the wall, using stones, and their agent argued that the council’s two-month enforcement deadline to remove the decking would be a struggle due to the limited availability of contractors.

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Their hopes were pinned on their appeal against the enforcement notice, and a different planning inspector visited the cafe to see the decking and fencing and its proximity to the house next door for herself. Her decision was limited to two grounds, though, and it upheld the council’s enforcement notice meaning that the decking and fencing must be removed.

Mr Morris has previously said that The Lookout supported some 15 full and part-time jobs and that an earlier application to lower the decking had 105 letters of support.

Gower councillor Richard Lewis said he felt sorry for the two owners and that having to take down the decking was, in his view, “a disgrace”. He said: “They are local boys and run an excellent business. Gower is a holiday area – we don’t make our money from farming as much as we used to – and it means jobs.” He added: “Half the caravan sites in Gower have got decking.”