Sidmouth café owner threatens compensation claim citing ‘loss of business’ after Highway Authority decision

A decision by Devon County Council to prevent a town centre café in Sidmouth using a section of pavement opposite the premises for outdoor seating has been strongly disputed.

Hannah Corfield 

The Dairy Shops’s alfresco set up, which was given permission with a special ‘street café’ license back in July, was a crucial factor in enabling the business to remain viable during the coronavirus crisis – which continues to blight the hospitality sector.

Read the original story here.

Many have queried the risk involved with having tables and chairs positioned in Church Street, due to the area being predominantly pedestrianised.

Owner John Hammond responded: “As part of our complaint against the actions of Devon County Council removing permission for our three tables and six chairs (six covers) we are now looking at loss of business caused by the decision from the Highway Authority.

“We ask that you pass any objective evidence for the reasons that the tables have been removed onto your legal team as our estimated loss of business up until the end of December will be in the region of 6k.

“While this might not seem a lot of money to DCC, as a small business operating at 60% of last year’s turnover due to Covid-19 restrictions, this is a significant amount.

“We are trying to survive the current pandemic and decisions which are detrimental to our business will be followed through to the highest level.

“In light of ‘loss of business’ we will be looking at a compensation claim should our tables not be reinstated in line with the original agreement.”

The position of the Highways Management Team at Devon County Council, who are responsible for granting outdoor seating permits, is that the arrangement was initially allowed to support the business coming out of lockdown.

Now that the temporary license has expired it no longer meets certain requirements and, following complaints made, it has been deemed to ‘impact on adjacent businesses, whilst putting pedestrians at risk’.

A Devon County Council spokesman 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.”