UPDATE: County Council responds amid uproar over Sidmouth Dairy Shop ‘street café’

Hannah Corfield sidmouth.nub.news 

A community-focussed café in Sidmouth’s town centre is disputing a decision to prohibit the continued use of a stretch of pavement for outdoor seating.

A temporary pavement licence was issued to The Dairy Shop on Church Street back in July, as a special measure to help the local hospitality sector reopen after lockdown.

Devon County Council Highways Management who hold responsibility for pavement licensing have rejected an application for the permit to be renewed.

Having relied on the extra seating for the past three months, the decision came as a shock to business owner, John Hammond, who told us: “Having tables and chairs outside of our small café space, in this current climate of fear around coronavirus, is crucial for us.

“The arrangement has worked perfectly well up to now – enabling us to stay afloat as a business – providing jobs and serving the local community throughout the pandemic.

“Sidmouth Town Council has also actively supported our cause and spoken out about the ‘unfair’ refusal.”

In response, a Devon County Council spokesperson said: “The footway in this location is restricted and it’s unusual to grant a licence on the opposite side of the road from a premises.

“But, because it was within social distancing measures being promoted by the Town Council, and had the support of the local member Councillor Stuart Hughes, we made an exception in this case and a provisional licence was granted until the end of September.

“Unfortunately, the applicant then placed additional seating outside the agreed area.

“We advised him that further breaches would lead to the licence being revoked and asked that the extra seating be removed.

“Then, outside of what was agreed, the removed seating was put back and additional parasols were added to the tables.

“This resulted in several complaints being received by the Authority, which impacted on adjacent businesses and effectively reduced the width of the highway.

“It is not a ‘right’ to occupy the highway, but a concession granted by the Highway Authority for community benefit.”