Friday, 10 July 2020

New cafe outdoor seating plan divides councillors

THE owner of a Benson coffee shop wants to place tables and chairs for customers outside.

But Stephanie Noble’s plan for No 25 in High Street has divided parish councillors.

Mrs Noble, who lives in Gravel Close, opened the café earlier this year and it serves tea and coffee, cake and sandwiches.

Now she wants permission for a seating area in front of the café to attract more custom.

Bill Pattison, chairman of Benson Parish Council, said he opposed the idea.

He told a virtual council meeting that when the premises were occupied by the Chiltern Produce and Florist, passers-by had to walk in the road to get around customers looking at the produce on display in racks in front of the shop.

He said: “I can’t imagine that a table and chairs would cause any less blockage than someone standing there with groceries. They should manage inside.” Councillor Michael Winton said: “I don’t think there’s sufficient room for tables and people to walk.”

He suggested putting a table outside the café on a trial basis.

Councillor Philip Murray said: “Rather than just saying ‘no’, let’s get them to demonstrate how it can be fitted in. If there wasn’t a problem with access and people getting around it, I think it would be a nice thing to do.”

Councillor Tom Stevenson added: “There’s a fairly clear path along with different colour bricks on it and it seems to me that was put there for a purpose, which is for a walkway along the front of the shops.”

Some members suggested using Bob’s Corner nearby instead. This is used for cake sales and for selling poppies at remembrance.

Councillor Rob Jordan said the tables could be set up there rather than outside the cafe and the council could charge Mrs Noble rent.

“You have to realise how much profit is in this coffee,” he said.

“The reason all the high streets are filling up with coffee shops is the profit is enormous. It costs about 18p to make a cup which costs about £2.40.”

Councillor Fiona Lovesey said: “If they go on to Bob’s Corner how will you ask them to move when people want to hire it?”

Cllr Stevenson suggested a demonstration of how it would work, adding: “I don’t think we should even think about in front of the shop.”

Councillor Ian Skeels said that if Mrs Noble was granted permission by Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, she could do whatever she wanted.

The greengrocers closed in February last year. Benson Parish Council ruled out a request by residents for it to buy the premises and turn it into a community-owned store.

At the time, Cllr Pattison said that a shop would be competing with other businesses in High Street.

Meanwhile, the council said it had no objection, in principle, for a fruit and vegetable stall to be held in the village once a week.

But members want the vendor, who lives in Watlington, to come and show them how this would operate.

Cllr Pattison said the seller wanted to use the parish hall car park in Sunnyside but was warned that it could be full once the hall was fully functioning again after the coronavirus crisis was over.

Councillors suggested using the College Farm car park in the centre of the village.

But Cllr Skeels said the stall could become a “real nuisance” as the seller would want to be there all day and could take up considerable space. There was also a fish and chip van already using it.

Councillor Patricia Baylis said: “I think it would be a great thing, especially since the fruit and veg shop has closed.”

More News:

Latest video from

VIDEO: Tributes paid after rugby player's death

POLL: Have your say