ONGOING SAGA: Row over Yarm wine bar courtyard sees residents cry foul over its use
AN ongoing saga into a wine bar courtyard has now seen residents cry foul over privacy fears.
Fourteen Drops, on Yarm High Street, has acquired “temporary event notices” (TENs) to use a space to the rear of the bar to serve customers during covid restrictions.
Owner Fiona McLain urged Stockton Council to show more flexibility in allowing use of the space – with a planning application on its longer term use now imminent.
But some neighbours have aired their own concerns about the bar’s use of the courtyard – with loss of privacy, noise, and how the bar has gone about the change causing some disquiet.
Former Stockton councillor Jackie Earl says her home’s glass bathroom window is just three feet from the courtyard area.
She added: You wouldn’t believe it. I can touch an umbrella from my garden wall.
“I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve no issue with people making money out of it.
“We had a newsagent’s for more than 40 years on the High Street so I understand all about businesses.
“But not having this three feet from your house.”
There is a six foot wall between Ms Earl’s property and the courtyard but her property overlooks the space.
The grandmother-of-seven said she put a lot of money and effort into renovating her own High Street home in line with Yarm’s conservation area rules.
She believed her privacy had been infringed upon by the courtyard’s use for serving customers – and was unhappy and shocked with the way the bar had gone about the change.
Ms Earl added: “They’ve ridden roughshod over us really – it’s an entitlement thing.
“What if I’d gone and done that in front of their house? They wouldn’t like a pop up bar.”
Father-of-one Andrew Moffat lives with his young family overlooking the courtyard.
The 23-year-old assistant shop manager said he only found out about the courtyard changes through “word of mouth”.
Mr Moffat added: “The green door next to the Fourteen Drops – our post box is on the other side of that.
“So any customers walking through would have access to all my mail if I’d gone away for a week.
“The other concern we had was our son’s bedroom is at the back of the building where the courtyard is.
“I know Yarm can be busy on the High Street but that’s right next to us and the noise is a disturbance.”
He also had misgivings about being kept in the loop by both the owner and the council.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” said Mr Moffat.
“I understand from a business point of view why they’re doing this but another thing was I wish they’d talk to us about it more, rather than just telling us “this is happening”.”
Claims and conditions
The upmarket wine and charcuterie bar opened in 2017 on the site of the former Elliott’s coffee shop.
Eight seats are available at the front of the shop at the moment as well as the rear courtyard.
Ms McLain revealed how the bar had paid for the renovation of the courtyard – removing “eight bags of slime” as part of efforts to re-purpose it.
She explained how the limitations of its use and a planning wrangle with Stockton Council had been “devastating”.
But its use has now been secured through a TEN until May 16 – a day before lockdown restrictions will change to allow bars and eateries to serve customers inside.
When it came to Ms Earl’s concerns, Ms McLain claimed she had filmed out of her window – and had “been abusive” to customers and staff.
But Ms Earl has strenuously denied being abusive.
“I’m allowed six people in my garden in front of my wall – but they’ve got 18 to 20 people in there at times,” she added.
A planning condition agreed when the change of use of the building was rubber-stamped states the courtyard should “not be used by customers or for the consumption of food or drink” unless agreed in writing by the planning authority.
However, it’s understood the Temporary Event Notice covers this condition for the time being.
Ms McLain said the bar had full use of the courtyard space – adding past concerns aired before Fourteen Drops had opened hadn’t come to fruition.
She added: “I appreciate the frustrations – we’ve tried to be extremely accommodating.
“She wanted it (the area) at a different end and we moved it to a different end.
“Unfortunately, we’re having scaffolding at the moment because the landlord is renovating the roof on the flat but that needs to be fixed.
“We’ve had to move it to the other end first for safety reasons but as soon as that’s gone we’ll be moving it back to the other side as she requested.”
However, Ms McLain also said she “had little sympathy” for Ms Earl at the moment in the wake of the tensions.
When it came to the postbox, the bar owner believed there was an “easy fix”.
“It’s got a cage on the back and all they need to do is put a padlock on it and nobody would be able to access it,” said Ms McLain.
“We’re happy to supply the padlock for them.
“We don’t send customers out that way – we send them through the bar because we’ve found that’s easier and we don’t have that door open on the side because we don’t want customers just walking in on their own.”
The bar owner said there had been a number of residents who’d supported their use of the courtyard – and visited it – with the bar shutting by 10pm.
She also confirmed a planning application would be lodged to the council for partial use of the courtyard.
“We’re not trying to do anything crazy,” added Ms McLain.
“There is a precedent for this to go forward with people going out more and this cafe culture becoming a thing.
“I think there is going to be more of this now.
“Whether it’s us or someone else, that space will be used at some point because it’s a prime space in a location where, unfortunately, people don’t have much at the front on the High Street.
“I think there is an element of it being a change which we know people will be frustrated with – but I feel it’s better if we do it considerately, rather than somebody else coming in, doing it and taking over the whole space.
“It’s better the devil you know I guess.”
Stockton Council officials confirmed they were aware of some concerns from residents and were keeping an eye on the situation.
A council spokesman said: “We’ve taken a flexible approach to supporting businesses as they get back on their feet, and Fourteen Drops was recently granted a Temporary Events Notice allowing use of the rear courtyard.
“We’re aware of some concerns from nearby residents and are monitoring the situation as we do our best to balance the needs and views of residents and businesses during this transitional period in the national covid roadmap.
“The Temporary Events Notice comes to an end on May 16 – and the licensee is aware that a full planning application would have to be submitted for any permanent changes to be considered.”
Words: Alex Metcalfe, Local Democracy Reporter
Watch the channel on TV