Owners of Middle Eastern restaurant Pomegranate, at 1 Antigua Street, have started a petition to try to overturn a demand from planners that requires them to remove menu boards, signage and lighting from the outside of their premises – even though it was mostly installed years ago by a previous owner.
In a Facebook post that has received hundreds of supportive comments, they claim that the planning diktat follows an 18 month long campaign of harassment from one local resident, which has included a series of complaints, verbal abuse and allegations that the shop front is somehow “offensive.”
Pomegranate write: “After an 18 month sustained campaign of harassment led by a neighbour, we are being forced to remove ALL our lighting, and signage from our business. This will cost us our livelihood and that of the many staff we employ. As an Italian restaurant, the premises traded for over 20 years without any problems.
“As a middle eastern restaurant we have been plagued by complaints, by verbal abuse of both staff and customers by one lady in particular. There will be a petition in the restaurant from today, please, if you love us, and our food, take the time to stop by and sign.”
One sympathiser has dug out a photo of the building frontage when it traded as Ferri’s Italian Restaurant, and most of the same lighting and menu display fittings are present. Another commenter suggested that the menu boards may have been in place for as long as twenty three years.
Other supporters point out that the colour scheme and appearance of the restaurant is far less lurid than many of the other catering establishments nearby.
Although the implied racism underlying this complaint is new, this case has many similarities to the planning battle over shop front signage that nearby Real Foods still seem to be fighting against planning officials, whom some dubbed “overzealous.”
Perhaps planners either need to enforce a consistent and pro-active policy for all the shops in the area or carefully re-consider their approach to retrospective planning enforcement in response to public complaints?
For if planners feel that they must always take action in response to complaints from the public then they clearly run the risk of being accused of unfair and discriminatory practice.
Perhaps, in cases such as this, where a frontage has had minor fittings such as lights and menu boards for many, many years, without complaint but also without formal planning permission, it would not be unreasonable for planners to exercise some nuance?
Whilst the additional decking that has been added to the building is a relatively significant structure, it would seem that most reasonable people would hope that some form of compromise can be agreed that will not risk running the restaurant out of business.
In the meantime, it seems that the owners of the firm are grateful for public support.
TOTALLY overwhelmed by the level of support from everyone today. You are all WONDERFUL 🙂
— Pomegranate (@PomegranateEdin) October 12, 2013
You can find the Pomegranate Facebook Page here.
A little more digging reveals details of the planning enforcement action. It would seem that the restaurant has already appealed the decision to the Scottish Government and they too have backed council planners attempts to protect the listed building.
It also emerges from the documentation that many of the disputed changes to the building – such as the decking, CCTV and lighting may in fact have been in place for less than four years.
The documentation does confirm that the planners only got involved after one member of the public complained. Meanwhile, in the space of just a few days more than 2200 people have signed the online petition supporting the restaurant owners.
But despite all the public support, all this campaigning by the restaurant owners may be too little too late – the restaurant will most likely have to comply with the planners ruling eventually.
What do you think? Are planners being overzealous? Or should Pomegranate admit defeat more gracefully?