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Shock refusal of South Hampstead cafe due to noise impact on autistic boy

PUBLISHED: 17:16 11 November 2011

Ingirde Bethell and her son Sam

Ingirde Bethell and her son Sam

Archant

A determined mother has successfully pleaded with council chiefs to reject proposals to turn a shop into a restaurant and deli - which she said she would make caring for her autistic son "far harder".

A family had asked to convert their Italian furniture shop in Fairfax Road, South Hampstead, into a Carluccio’s-style eatery.

It would open until 11pm and serve up to 42 diners at a time.

But in an unusual move, councillors narrowly voted against the application despite officers recommending it for approval.

The shock decision came after a family movingly told of their fears that noise and disruption caused by the restaurant would undermine their autistic son Sam’s ability to cope with his condition.

In a poignant plea to councillors, Ingrid Bethell, who lives with her husband behind the proposed restaurant, said: “Our six year-old son needs a quiet, peaceful environment in order to sleep.

“His behaviour deteriorates suddenly when his sleep is disturbed, and this restaurant will affect his ability to sleep which then damages his ability to cope with his condition.

“It would have a massive affect on our lives.”

Mrs Bethell, who gave up her job as a chartered surveyor to become a full-time carer for her son, said the noise caused by a large extractor fan, and the coming and going of constant flows of customers and staff, would create an unbearable strain on her family.

She also warned that a backyard attached to the shop was likely to be used as a smoking area by staff, which would attract noise well into the evening.

Representative Leo Charalambides said the furniture shop owners had spoken with residents and would put in place procedures to minimise noise and smells.

But a majority of councillors voted against the eatery, which they warned would change the character of the quiet shopping parade.

Commenting on its refusal, Mrs Bethell said: “It is wonderful news. I am not trying to put people out of business, but this restaurant would have made it incredibly difficult to care for a child with special needs.”

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