Original article from Kent Live
Plans to erect a removable canopy outside a hotel in Sandwich have proved controversial with local residents.
Owners of the Bell Hotel at Sandwich Quay say the structure is needed after a difficult trading year amid the pandemic, with more customers wanting to eat and drink outdoors.
But over 30 residents have objected, labelling the simple off-white canopy a "major eyesore" and a "monstrosity".
Due to the volume of complaints, the plans will now be decided on by a full district council planning committee this Thursday (August 12).
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Residents also raised concerns about a healthy tree that was removed "without public knowledge" prior to the application.
Hotel owners Shepherd Neame say the canopy was "critical" to their business due to the pandemic.
A planning statement said: "Customer habits have changed and the need for quality outside trading space has become ever-apparent as we head into the post-Covid era.
"Where external areas were once the preserve of summer months, the provision of extended season covered areas has become critical to the viability of hospitality sector businesses that have seen extended closure during lockdown.
"The proposal is for a semi-permanent stretch tent structure to be installed over the existing West (town) facing lower customer terrace.
"The proposed canopy structure is a large piece of waterproof material stretched taut over freestanding poles of various heights to create a covered layout.
"The stretch tent canopy effectively utilises the area previously covered by a retractable canvas awning."
Sandwich Town Council has formally supported the plans.
In a bid to calm objecting residents, the hotel submitted photos of other historic buildings that has erected similar canopies.
Local resident Ben Gardner was among dozens to lodge strong objections.
He said: "To use the provision of an extended season for the hospitality due to lockdown does also beg the question of what will happen in colder weather.
"Will we see outdoor heaters being used to keep patrons warm when the British Summer gives way to inclement weather?
"If so what is the environmental impact of those being used? What are the safety implications of them being used?
"Dover District Council has a duty to retain the historical nature of the centre of Sandwich rather than allowing a monstrosity like this to be erected, but also a moral obligation to ensure that underhand dealings are not rewarded."
Another resident, former district councillor for the area Paul Carter, said: "Can the planning Department explain how the healthy tree that was outside the Bell Hotel was allowed to be taken down without an public notice?
"As to the planning application for what is a very large white Tent.
"It won't be taken down every night, week or month so it is permanent and should be truthfully stated as such!
"This plastic and steel tent will be a major eyesore in an area that is of great historic significance which doesn't seem to be taken into consideration.
"This planning application should be thrown out immediately and Shepherd Neame should be ashamed at suggesting such a tacky addition to its grade 2 listed hotel."
Dover District Council's planning committee will decide on the plans at a meeting at 6pm on Thursday (August 9).