Sam’s Riverside – Planning update

Statement from Hammersmith & Fulham Council:

H&F Council’s planning teams have engaged with Sam’s Riverside and its planning consultants throughout and sought to discuss ways its outdoor space could be used within planning law throughout the Christmas period but that suggestion was not taken up.

Instead, Sam Harrison, the proprietor, is running a media campaign to get the original planning judgement reversed. There has been a tremendous amount of misrepresentation about what has happened and that needs to be corrected.

Sam’s Riverside submitted an unsuccessful planning application to permanently extend their restaurant at the Riverside Studios. Riverside Studios is a new building which opened in August 2019. That building is a consequence of an extensive planning process which successfully maximised all available space in what is a sensitive conservation area. The planning application submitted by Sam’s Riverside failed to meet planning criteria. That is why it was rejected.

H&F Council is always very keen to support local businesses. So, in an effort to find a way forward, our Assistant Director of Planning and a planning official met with Sam Harrison on Monday 5 December to discuss solutions. They suggested discussing ways to help the restaurant temporarily utilise their outdoor space throughout the Christmas period and also corresponded on this subject. But Mr Harrison only wanted to talk about a more permanent structure. We were therefore perplexed when two days after that meeting, on Wednesday 7 December, Mr Harrison tweeted that the Council has demonstrated an “unwillingness to find a solution”. That is plainly not true.

Similarly, during the planning application process, in mid-November the planning team contacted the planning consultants representing Sam’s Riverside to discuss where their draft proposals were outside of the strict planning regulations that relate to that sensitive riverfront site and suggested they consider a different way forward. However, the planning consultants asked for the application to be decided as it stood and without any changes being made to it. It was therefore also not right for Mr Harrison to tweet on 29 November that Sam’s Riverside has “been unable to get a response from anyone at H&F”. This is an allegation Mr Harrison has since repeated.

We are dismayed there has been so much misrepresentation about this case. While Hammersmith & Fulham is very sympathetic to the challenges faced by Sam’s Riverside, we cannot breach planning regulations because he has chosen to run a media campaign.

Hammersmith & Fulham recognises that since Sam’s Riverside opened in November 2019 it has faced Brexit, the pandemic, rampant inflation and a shrinking economy. These have contributed to the huge difficulties for all hospitality businesses. That’s why we have taken many measures to support the hospitality industry and will always go out of our way to try and help.

We hope we can find ways to help Sam’s Riverside operate at full capacity even in its existing footprint and clarify for Mr Harrison once again how any planning application must sit within planning law.