The Butlin’s holiday camp in Minehead will get a new temporary events venue despite concerns about noise levels for nearby residents.
The holiday resort submitted plans in December 2020 for a new temporary building which could hold events for up to the next three years.
The resort argued the venue would allow it to welcome more day visitors, aiding its recovery from the current economic downturn while safeguarding against future coronavirus outbreaks.
Somerset West and Taunton Council has now approved the plans, meaning the new venue could be in place by the Easter holidays.
The resort’s usual capacity of 7,400 guests has been limited to a maximum of 3,300 since it reopened last summer following the first national lockdown.
The new venue would allow up to 5,000 people to attend during the day for events, but there would be no increase in the current limits on the number of people staying on-site overnight.
The venue can hold up to 860 people, with a specially-designed ventilation and heating system and a custom-made PA system.
It is laid out so that people can only sit within existing bubbles, reducing inter-mingling and thereby the spread of the virus.
The plans were debated at a virtual meeting of the council’s planning committee on Thursday afternoon (February 4).
Mr and Mrs Atkins, who live on Warren Road near the site, said the building would help to counter against “unbearable” noise levels coming from that section of the camp.
They said: “The noise from the camp has been getting progressively worse and more prolonged over the last few years.
“Last year was exceptionally difficult for everyone, but was compounded for us by the erection of a large open space a few hundred metres away pointing directly at our property.
“We have lived here for 20-plus years and expect a certain level of noise, but it just isn’t right when you cannot use your own garden or get away from the noise and the appalling bass reverberating through our house.
“The proposed building would be a huge improvement if it means that noise levels are negligible or non-existent.”
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John Henry Pickup, managing director of Butlin’s, said the facility was “an integral part of the town”, and these proposals would help to secure its short-term future while meeting “the highest possible standards” of health and safety.
He said: “Unsurprisingly, we have been severely impacted by the coronavirus crisis. We have had to disappoint many guests by the postponement or cancellation of their holidays.
“We’ve closed our resort on three separate occasions and have had to furlough our wonderful team while we wait for more encouraging news about how the UK will reopen hospitality and leisure venues as we progress with our vaccine programme.
“We’re confident that we can reopen with a safe and secure environment, but we also need to innovate in order to get as many guests as possible the Butlin’s experience that they wish for.
“This high-quality temporary building will be acoustically secure, air-filtered and visually in keeping with the rest of the resort.”
Mr Pickup said there would be “ongoing noise monitoring” for the amenity of local residents and the company was happy to accept time restrictions for when the venue could be used.
Councillor Andrew Hadley – whose Minehead Central ward includes the site – argued that the improvements were essential given the local economy’s reliance on tourism.
He said: “The majority of Minehead businesses and employment opportunities revolve around the tourism industry providing employment and income for many working families.
“Butlin’s has not been immune to the effects of the past 12 months, and yet they are still prepared to commit to the town by bringing forward measures that would allow it to continue to attract visitors.
“This application is a reaction to the situation the country finds itself in. They are trying to come up with a solution that both makes the business viable moving forward and tries to work with the local community to avoid unbearable inconvenience.”
Councillor Paul Bolton, who is also a qualified sound engineer, said there had been “problems with noise on a regular basis” from the camp in the past.
He said: “At one point the front door of my property was rattling with bass sound – and I live as the crow flies around three-quarters of a mile from the facility.
“The sound attenuation which the side walls of this building will be giving is not much more than you would find in an average dwelling between rooms.
“I do believe there is a lot more than can be done with the soundproofing for this building.”
Councillor Chris Morgan, who lives in Stogursey, contrasted the noise concerns to the noise generated by the national clap for NHS lockdown fundraiser Captain Sir Tom Moore, who died on Tuesday (February 2) at the age of 100.
He said: “I must confess to finding all this quite surreal, actually. I don’t know about Minehead and Taunton but the noise in my village at 6pm last night [February 3] in respect and remembrance of Captain Sir Tom Moore was absolutely deafening.
“I’m not aware that anyone’s complained about that yet, but I’m sure that they will somewhere along the line.
“The compliance conditions appear very acceptable, and I do believe we have to look forward.”
The committee ultimately voted to approve the plans by 11 votes to three after around 90 minutes’ debate.
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