Neighbours feel “bitterly disappointed and cheated” by what they see as a fundamental departure from agreed plans for a surfing lake near Bristol.
Residents said The Wave was sold to them as a family friendly venue that would benefit the community – and claim there would have been “huge” protests if the firm had been up front about its intentions for the 77-acre site in Easter Compton, north of Cribbs Causeway.
The Wave is applying for a licence to serve alcohol until 11pm each day, and until 2am on New Year’s Day, prompting fears about drink driving and disturbances late into the night.
Chief executive Craig Stoddart said he and his colleagues had been “absolutely honest” about their intentions and residents had misunderstood the type and scale of events they plan to hold.
One of the 41 objectors, who have all had their names redacted by South Gloucestershire Council, said: “The licence proposal is completely at odds with the original picture presented and we would have objected strenuously if we felt it was to become an entertainment venue, nightclub, restaurant and drinking facility, open from 6am to 11.30pm every day. We were misled.
“The proposal is completely alien to the original project. The prospect of noisy parties and outdoor music at the multiple leisure venues that currently exist will permeate the area and completely ruin the quiet green belt environment.”
Another said: “Had The Wave been honest in the original application the protest against it would have been huge. To alter what was passed is unacceptable to residents whose lives would be adversely affected.
“The noise from daytime will be bad enough but to prolong this late into the night is unacceptable and we hope the application will not be allowed.”
Others said the licensing application was a “fundamental change” from what was originally proposed and they felt “bitterly disappointed and cheated”.
The Wave secured planning permission in July 2014 for an inland surf lake with an education centre, cafe bar, camping and other short-stay accommodation.
Work on the site is set to be completed this autumn.
It said in its licensing application: “The Wave is bringing surfing, nature and a fresh way of thinking to all ages, backgrounds and abilities.
“We are building exciting, sustainable inland surfing lake destinations powered by the latest Wavegarden wave-making technology.
“The Wave will provide perfect waves for everyone, from a child stepping on a board for the first time to a professional training for the Olympics.”
An objector with the same postcode as The Wave said: “This application, if successful, converts what was an honourable intention to provide a surfing facility with public interest at heart into what will be an entertainment centre with private commercial interest at heart.”
Stoddart said: “We were absolutely honest about the nature of the project in our original application.
“Our planning permission allows us to have people surfing until 6pm, but it doesn’t reference opening times for our café or campsite, where we have planning permission for 25 tented structures.
“We have to apply for a license in order to be able to serve refreshments and alcohol, and host events, such as surf competitions in the future.
“The vast majority of our visitors will only be on site in the daytime when they are able to surf.
“We will be open for surfing from around 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday, and 8am to 5pm on Sundays and Bank Holidays, in line with our current planning permission.
“We need to be open a little either side of surf opening hours for people to change and have a bite to eat / a drink before heading home or to one of our safari tents, when they open in the spring, if they have booked to stay in one of these.
“It has always been our intention to serve alcohol in our café – as happens in other sporting facilities, such as the local golf club.
“However, this is very much secondary to the main experience on the site, which is surfing.
“We are aiming for a café culture on site, where people can enjoy a drink responsibly after their surf – not an alcohol-led culture focused on irresponsible drinking.
“It’s worth noting that we are forecasting to sell considerably more coffees, teas and ice-creams than alcohol.”
Stoddart said the firm had consulted with residents and taken on their concerns, and will continue to liaise with them.
“It also looks like there has been some misunderstanding regarding the type and scale of events we may be looking to hold in the future.
“Our current plans are for daytime surfing events, such as an adaptive surfing competition, not alcohol-fuelled festivals.”
The firm expects to have around 700 people on site and any one time and up to 120 people staying overnight.
The licensing application says music will not be played at a level that causes an “unreasonable” disturbance to neighbours, the outdoor roof terrace will close by 9.30pm and there will be a zero tolerance approach to drugs. Bar staff will will ask to see the ID of anyone who looks younger than 25.
There were representations from two supporters, with one saying: “We understand that The Wave needs a reasonably flexible drinks and entertainments licence in order to be an economic and thriving business.
“Its success will mean that the facility will become a valuable amenity for the area and a significant draw of people from around the country, bringing benefit to the area.”
The application will be considered by South Gloucestershire Council’s licensing subcommittee on August 20.
Stephen Sumner is a local democracy reporter for South Gloucestershire