Marquees to come down at No. 131 in Cheltenham

Julian Dunkerton's Lucky Onion Group has lost its latest appeal to keep the outdoor marquees at boutique Cheltenham hotel and dining destination, No. 131 The Promenade, after revised plans proposing a lower roof height were rejected.

By Annabel Lammas  |  Published
The marquees at No 131 in Cheltenham must come down, after a second appeal to keep them in situ for another 12 months with a lower roof height, was refused by Cheltenham Borough Council this November 2023.

A second appeal to keep the marquees outside Cheltenham's popular hotel and dining spot, No. 131 The Promenade, for a further 12 months has been refused by the local authority, with the planning committee voting nine votes to one to reject the new application.

In this latest appeal, hotel owner The Lucky Onion Group proposed turning the pointed hat-style peaks into domes that would be two metres lower, allowing for more of the Regency villas' architecture to be visible — as well as reducing the number of marquees from 19 to 16.

No. 131, which is owned by Cheltenham businessman and Superdry boss Julian Dunkerton, is one of the town's hottest hospitality spots, offering boutique stays and dining in its two restaurants, The Terrace and Japanese fine dining establishment, YOKU; while on-site cocktail bar Gin & Juice is open for late-night drinks. 

The hotel and restaurant consists of three Grade II listed Regency villas, dating back to the early 1830s, with three adjacent gate piers that are also individually Grade II listed. 

The tents were originally installed as a temporary measure in October 2020, to allow No. 131 The Terrace restaurant to offer socially-distanced, outdoor dining during the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the time, Cheltenham Borough Council relaxed planning enforcement against temporary structures so hospitality businesses could make use of outdoor spaces to meet social distancing requirements.

The Lucky Onion was refused planning permission to extend its temporary marquees for another two years in October 2022 — a decision it appealed on the grounds that the marquees, described as 'crucial' to the business's survival in a post-pandemic economy, offered greater benefits to the public than they did harm to the Grade II listed heritage site they sit on. 

After a lengthy appeal process, the objection was refused by Cheltenham Borough Council in August 2023 because of the impact the marquees have on the Grade II listed buildings they obscure and the appearance of the Cheltenham Central Conservation Area (CA).

The Lucky Onion Group quickly lodged a second appeal with the council, drawing up revised plans in a bid to keep the marquees for a further 12 months so that a permanent solution could be addressed.

The committee almost unanimously agreed that the revised marquees would still have too much of an impact on the historic buildings, with the proposed 12-month extension, for the hotel owners to plan for a permanent solution, having limited public benefit.

Supporting the planning officers' most recent rejection, councillor Emma Nelson said the new marquees would still be a 'bad sight' and that the hotel owners had not 'addressed the reasons for the inspector's refusal', on the basis that the marquees still obscure the ground floor of the buildings. 

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