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Laser tag firm vows to carry on playing despite losing appeal
THE owner of an outdoor laser game business has vowed to fight on despite being denied planning permission to continue operating at a site in Hampshire.
Paul Dunford said: “We are going to appeal and I am going to keep going. It is mine and my wife’s business and we have worked so hard to build this up. We have come this far and we are going to keep fighting and fighting.”
Councillors on the Winchester City Council planning committee unanimously rejected the proposals on ecological grounds as the site is surrounded by ancient woodland and is covered by two Sites for Nature Conservation (SINCs).
Permission has also been granted for a 14-house development off nearby Francis Copse, and councillors decided this would conflict with the business.
The application divided local opinion with 113 people signing a petition to keep it against several objections from local residents and the parish council.
Mr Dunford says he disputes whether the adjacent woodland is actually a SINC. “I think we have been treated very badly. The whole thing is shambolic and laughable.”
He employs around 15 people, three full-time, on the six-acre site.
Speaking at the meeting, Colden Common parish councillor Jean Bligdon said the laser tag was “visually and environmentally incompatible” with the area.
She added: “The business has a negative impact on the enjoyment of neighbouring residents’ properties. The site is ecologically sensitive being an ancient woodland habitat.”
Jonathan McDermott, agent for the applicant, said the business provided an outdoor activity for local children and that there was little adverse impact on the environment.
But councillors decided the risk to the environment was too great to allow the business to continue.
Cllr Therese Evans said: “This is a very positive activity and very popular but I feel this is not the right site for it.
SINCs are important designations and a diminishing designation.
“We do not have enough information as to how the trees are going to be protected.”
Cllr Frank Pearson added: “Even on private land there are rules and this business could not have chosen a worse site for this choice of activity. A SINC site with ancient woodland is about as environmentally sensitive as you can get.”
Speaking after the meeting, Mr McDermott said the business would appeal and continue to operate until an enforcement notice was served.
He said: “My clients will be challenging the decision as the reasons for refusal are technical reasons from the county environment and tree officers and there are ways and means of getting around that.”
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