A PROPERTY expert says a recommendation by planning officers to deny permission for a bold new project is “astounding”.

A restaurant firm wants to create a pavilion structure over Brighton Square in the centre of The Lanes, Brighton, to increase the height of the dolphin fountain and create extra outdoor seating to use as restaurant space.

The planning application has received 34 objections but more than 100 letters of support.

The application for Coppa Club’s designs for the external square goes to the planning committee on June 6.

John Gripton, from Osmond Capital which is behind the scheme, said: “We hope the committee can appreciate the benefits our design will bring to The Lanes, not just the square itself.

“I’ve spoken to many of the shopkeepers now who have been really supportive because they can see Coppa will bring people to the Lanes and we’re ready to invest heavily.

“It’s a flexible space which we will dress according to the seasons.

“We’re not exclusive, everyone is welcome.

“I also want to make clear we don’t want to stop people crossing the square, the doors are open to all, but when it’s raining and cold, the pod means you will still be able to use the square.

“We’re keeping James Osborne’s dolphin sculpture and the pod is designed to emphasise, not detract from it.

“The slightly sad-looking fountain will be replaced with a new version to provide seating around the base of the sculpture and, importantly, you will be able to sit there whatever the weather.

“Our Coppa Club in Sonning on Thames has become a community hub and a real focal point for locals and we hope to recreate that in Brighton Square.”

Phil Graves, boss of Graves Jenkins property consultants, said: “We are utterly astounded by the decision.

“The application brings employment through construction and its operation, plus anchors the full regeneration of the very dated square.

“We have the modern architecture of the i360 and the glass pavilion in Bartholomew Square, yet a much smaller design allowing the opportunity for diners to enjoy a relaxed and pedestrian friendly experience is refused.”

Brighton and Hove City Council does not comment on applications under consideration.