Yorkshire hotel owner ordered to tear down Covid-19 dining pods he built to help cope with pandemic

A York hotel owner is in a planning battle with the council over its demand he pull down dining pods he built in the garden to help his business survive the pandemic.

City of York Council issued Simon Cowton, of the St George’s Hotel in St George’s Place, with an enforcement notice earlier this year, requiring him to take down and dispose of the eight glasshouses and “all material associated to the unauthorised development”, but he has since submitted an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.

The purpose of the heated glasshouses was to “safeguard existing jobs, protect guests, attract new visitors to York and the area and to respond in a creative way to the extreme challenges posed by Covid-19”, according to the initial planning application.

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Some locals objected to the pods, with one person writing to the council: “St George’s Place is a quiet residential street (in fact, a cul-de-sac) within a conservation area, with many children and the elderly living in very close proximity to the premises.

St George's Hotel in York

“I am therefore particularly concerned about noise, foul language and the excessive traffic and parking issues this will create.”

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The council’s public protection team said it had “concerns about noise from customers’ raised voices on race days and in the evenings in the garden”.

Mr Cowton said at the time that guests must have a booking and groups of racegoers, hen and stag parties cannot dine unless they are staying at the hotel.

He said in January: “It’s going to be a beautiful facility for the community, where people can have dinner in warm, beautiful, safe surroundings where you can have the illusion that life is back to normal. People are going to be nervous about going out for some time to come and a lot of people are not going to want to go into town.

“I want to reassure people that the concept isn’t what they think it is – it’s low lighting, maybe a little bit of chatter and a pizza oven in the garden.”

He also told the Guardian last winter: “The project has been just what I needed.”

A City of York Council spokesman said: “The enforcement notice was served earlier this year and the applicant has now appealed the notice. The Planning Inspectorate is considering the appeal and we are awaiting a decision.”

The Yorkshire Post was unable to reach Mr Cowton for comment.