Blow to pavement cafes plan

STEPHEN PULLINGER The sweeping new pavements on Yarmouth seafront would be the perfect spot to sit in the sun and lazily watch the landaus and road train go by.But many traders are now bitterly resigned to not having pavement cafes this summer, accusing the borough council of unnecessary delays and not listening to them over pricing.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

The sweeping new pavements on Yarmouth seafront would be the perfect spot to sit in the sun and lazily watch the landaus and road train go by.

But many traders are now bitterly resigned to not having pavement cafes this summer, accusing the borough council of unnecessary delays and not listening to them over pricing.

There was widespread outrage among seafront businessmen when they learned last month that the council was considering a pavement café charge of £100 per sq m for licensed premises - meaning some might be paying double the fee for a prime site in London's Covent Garden and up to 20 times the flat £495 charge in Blackpool.

Despite calls for reason at an angry traders' meeting in Yarmouth's Hippodrome Circus, it has been disclosed that the final charges likely to be approved at a council meeting next Tuesday still vastly exceed what any businessman polled by the EDP would be prepared to pay.

It is understood the likely fees are £65 per sq m for licensed cafes and £35 per sq m for non-licensed premises with a 20pc discount in the first year to offset the cost of buying tables and chairs.

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Significantly, the council is planning to ban bars that do not sell food having pavement cafes, insisting that a menu is sent in with any licence application and that food should be available at all times.

Peter Jay, who owns the Hippodrome and several other businesses around the seafront, said: “These charges would still be outrageous and unacceptable.

“But even if they see sense on that, it is still going to be too late to get pavement cafes going this summer with businesses having to get a licence and planning permission as well as buying the tables and chairs.

“The council has got to be held to account on this. They have had years to think about it but have just been procrastinating.

“The £16m spent on the seafront will have been wasted and they will have failed if there are no tables and chairs along there. Every time I drive along the seafront and see empty pavements it sickens me.”

Trevor Wainwright, leader of the council's opposition Labour group, said: “It is such a shame that we have spent millions on the seafront, with its wider pavements and slow lane for the landaus, and yet there are no tables and chairs that would add such a lot to the continental look we have created.

“We have already missed the best Easter for years and because of the delays it looks like nothing will happen this year.”

Bert Collins, the council cabinet member for tourism, said he was still optimistic pavement cafes could be in place by the summer as planning permission only needed to take 28 days.

But he said: “We have got to do the job properly from the start so if it does not go ahead this summer it will be for the best reasons.”

Borough regeneration officer David Stannard said: “A year ago it looked like it would be all sewn up in a few weeks but the intricacies of the problems we faced became apparent.”