Published: 00:01, 03 January 2018
A Caribbean restaurant chain has won its bid to open a branch in Canterbury despite objections from city heritage watchdogs.
Turtle Bay has been given permission to convert three neighbouring shop units in historic Butchery Lane into one three-storey restaurant.
The branch will be the firm’s 38th - but its first in Kent - opening on the site of Optical Express and the vacant units formerly occupied by the Oasis bar and Toni and Guy salon.
But the application - which was approved by council officers without being put before the planning committee - drew objections from two prominent groups in the city.
The Canterbury Society claimed the proposal was “unacceptable”.
“The increased footfall and user noise and density would greatly affect and coarsen the character of one of the few remaining narrow original lanes,” it said.
The Canterbury Heritage Design Forum (CHDF) also expressed fears about the location of the development, which sits within the shadow of Canterbury Cathedral.
“This is one of the most historic streets in the city and next to the Roman pavement,” it said.
“CHDF regrets the conversion to one huge unit, feeling that this destroys the historic character of the street. Butchery Lane was historically designed as lots of small units. They were designed to be the same and for each small unit to look the same.”
Both groups also raised concerns about doors to two of the buildings being replaced with windows, so Turtle Bay revised its plans to retain the appearance of three separate units.
In a report explaining its decision to give the application the go-ahead, the city council says the plans will be “beneficial to the vitality and viability of the city”.
“The proposed change of use to restaurant is considered to be in keeping with the character and appearance of the area, offering variety to the street which is considered to preserve the character and appearance of the conservation area,” it adds.
Turtle Bay’s property manager, George Waite, says Canterbury has long been on the firm’s radar.
“It has a reasonably large and young aspiring population,” he said in a letter supporting the application.
“The city centre is busy and vibrant and we believe we can become something different to the current restaurant offer in Canterbury.
“We like buildings that offer character and always design each restaurant to suit the city, location and building itself.”
Mr Waite added that Turtle Bay was particularly keen on the Butchery Lane site because it is close to the High Street but also “tucked away in an interesting location with a number of other restaurants and bars in the immediate vicinity”.
“We trade very successfully in similar locations in Oxford, Bath and York, and believe this site is quite comparable,” he said.
Turtle Bay has yet to release a launch date for the restaurant or its opening hours. It declined to comment this week.
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