Tempers boiling over at Blanc

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The Independent Online
For a gourmet, the aroma of a meal cooked by the leading chef Raymond Blanc would be an ecstasy. But for the less gastronomic residents of an Oxford street, constant odours from M Blanc's latest venture are getting right up their noses.

Since M Blanc opened his new restaurant Le Petit Blanc in Walton Street two weeks ago, he has been in hot water with his neighbours. Oxford City Council has been flooded with complaints about cooking smells and noise wafting out of the premises from early in the morning to late at night.

M Blanc, who owns the famous eaterie Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons in Great Milton, Oxfordshire, opened his new venture with massive publicity. But since then it has all gone horribly wrong. Stef Spencer, chair of the Oxford Council's planning committee, said yesterday: "We've had nine letters and numerous phonecalls from unhappy residents already.

"It transpires M.Blanc has already started serving breakfast from 8 o'clock in the morning which means that the staff start arriving around 6.30. The staff don't leave until 1.30am which gives the residents about five hours sleep. The kitchen doors are open the whole time and chefs are notoriously loud I'm told."

Other complaints include visitors parking in places reserved for locals. ["They are blatantly taking no notice of the restrictions," said Ms Spencer]. M Blanc also still has to obtain permission for the new shop front, a disabled access ramp, air conditioners, a new chimney and an extension at the back.

Last Friday the planning committee noted it was "extremely concerned" that M Blanc had gone ahead and opened the restaurant when not everything had been resolved.

Planning officers will be visiting M.Blanc this week to discuss these points. While they are prepared to negiotiate on most areas, the committee remains adamant Le Petit Blanc should not open before 11am and if M. Blanc continues to defy them "enforcement action could be taken to close down the restaurant although that would take a very long time."

Simon Rhatigan, general manager of the Blanc restaurants, said: "Some people said there had been noise from staff late at night and we will be altering things. But most of our neighbours have been very understanding."

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