Photograph of Rich Mix arts centre in Bethnal Green. Credit: Google Street View
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Residents express concern over Bethnal Green Arts Centre for outdoor seating plans

Residents of Bethnal Green have expressed concern over Rich Mix’s plans to build an outdoor café seating area with a new entrance because noise might impact the streets. 

Bethnal Green residents are concerned about Rich Mix’s plans to build an outdoor café seating area with a new entrance because noise might “blight” streets. 

Rich Mix, the cultural hub in Bethnal Green, had applied for planning permission with Tower Hamlets Council so it could create a second public entrance and an outside seating area for up to 30 people which it hopes would “transform” the ground floor and be more attractive for visitors.

The plans had been backed by the Greater London Authority (GLA) and the council’s Environmental Health team, who said, “the principle of outside seating in this location is acceptable” as it would be open until 8 pm from Sundays to Thursdays and until 9 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

However, a number of residents who live on nearby Redchurch Street which is opposite the Rich Mix had objected to the plans because they claimed it would create “unacceptable” levels of noise that would be a nuisance to them.

Local resident, Rupert Cole told the council’s development committee last Monday (September 4): “All local residents living close to the back of the Rich Mix have consistently objected to the extended use of this rear yard due to their experience of the terrible noise levels generated by the shape of the back of the building which amplifies the noise enormously.

“[Rich Mix] know it will mean the loss of the residents’ quiet amenity and will blight the street personally because of the noise levels.”

Mr Cole, who has lived in the area for the past 27 years, later added: “This application is simply not workable. It will result in unacceptable levels that are way above committed council planning guidelines.

Another resident who also spoke out against the plans said: “The proposed noise management plan is inadequate and will be ineffective.

“In a nutshell the plan is that Rich Mix would have one employee trying to [control] a loud crowd after they have started making excessive noise.”

CEO of Rich Mix, Judith Kilvington then spoke about the plans and explained that the current entrance was uninviting, confusing and couldn’t be easily accessed by visitors.

Ms Kilvington said: “We rely on grants and self-generated income to keep us afloat; every pound we make in our cinema, café bar and through space hire, goes straight back into supporting our work in the community.

“Like a lot of businesses we’ve had difficult times during and since Covid. We need to build a more sustainable model to allow us to deliver our mission to more people in more ways.”

She went on to say: “We can also do much better than the current uninviting entrance, confusing layout and poor accessibility.

“Our proposals are quite modest but create important improvements. We’re asking for permission for a small, single-storey entrance with a box office and café with limited outdoor seating and a second entrance facing the vibrant Redchurch Street.”

Ms Kilvington said if planning permission was granted, there would be “wide-reaching benefits” for Rich Mix which in turn “enables us to expand our programme by bringing together the many cultures and communities from across Tower Hamlets through arts and creativity”.

Another representative from Rich Mix said that the outdoor seating capacity plans had been reduced from 60 to 30 after listening to the requests of residents.

However, Mr. Cole later argued: “There’s not going to be 30 patrons, there’s going to be masses of more people going in and out of this building… It’s only the 30 seated people in the café that they’re talking about.

“There could well be 100 people there in the evening [who are] just standing there drinking, talking or queuing… it’s not modelled properly, it’s modelled on the wrong number of people and it’s just not good enough.”

Despite the development committee being recommended to approve the plans subject to planning conditions, Cllr Amin Rahman argued committee members should go and visit the site in person due to “dynamic” application.

Cllr Kamrul Hussain, who was chairing the committee, said: “Thank you to [Rich Mix]… we appreciate you are doing it for the community, but the residents are [also] the community and they need to live in harmony.

“People come to your place. Maybe they come from the West End or from the other side of East but these are the people who have to live with this, and while I appreciate you are doing it for the whole community… I think it’s quite a complex thing and we need to take more time so we can go and have a site visit and can decide accordingly.”

The committee then voted on whether the plans should be deferred until they visited the site for themselves.

A majority of members voted in favour while one person abstained. The vote was carried and the plans were deferred.

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