PLANNERS are again recommending councillors refuse permission for a restaurant’s popular outside dining area to become permanent, despite previously hearing the eatery will close if permission isn’t granted.

Sotto, on Wareham Street in Wilmslow, has temporary permission for the outside area but that expires in October.

Planning officers recommended permanent permission be refused because it is contrary to policies regarding the protection of open green spaces.

The structure is on privately-owned open space and officers said the previous temporary permission was justified because of the difficulties experienced by businesses during the pandemic and immediately after lockdown.

When the application to change that permission from temporary to permanent was considered by Cheshire East’s northern planning committee in March, owner Ms Mott said the restaurant had been hard hit by soaring costs and would have to close if it couldn’t use the outside dining area.

The application was deferred so she could submit further information, including how they would maintain protection and care of the trees on the site plus financial details regarding energy costs, staff wage increases, food and material inflation rates and their business margins.

This information has now been submitted and the application will be considered again by the northern planning committee on Wednesday.

In a report to the meeting the council's planning officer states: “Projected accounts figures for 2024 have also been provided for a scenario of the restaurant only (excluding the decking / canopy area) to demonstrate the value of the decking to the viability of the business. This shows that the restaurant would make a very significant loss if the decking was not included.”

The officer says the applicant’s agent has also provided a list of five restaurants in Wilmslow that have recently closed.

With regard to the loss of public open space, the report states: “The applicant has also discussed the loss of open space with the council’s greenspaces officer.

"They have advised that, whilst their policy objection to the loss of the open space remained, a sum of £75 per sqm could be used to calculate the amount of financial mitigation that would be required to compensate for the loss of open space. The site is approximately 145sqm, which would equate to a total contribution of £10,875.”

Knutsford Guardian: Cllr David JefferayCllr David Jefferay (Image: Cheshire East Council)

The application is being decided by the planning committee, and not a planning officer under delegated authority, because it was ‘called-in’ by Wilmslow councillor David Jefferay, who said residents backed the restaurant’s application.

In his ‘call-in’ letter, Cllr Jefferay (Ind) stated: “As open space, the grass actually provided minimal amenity value to Wilmslow's residents and its development has attracted widespread support amongst residents.

"It has been used far more since the structure was built than it ever was before and therefore, it is my belief, that the economic benefits of the business should outweigh the benefits provided as open space.”

Cheshire East planners have recommended councillors refuse the application on the grounds the proposed materials would not be appropriate for a permanent structure and the development would be contrary to policies regarding the protection of open green spaces.

The meeting takes place at 10am on Wednesday, July 5, at Macclesfield Town Hall.