Sunday, 14 August 2022

Shop cleared of planning breach for selling hot drinks

A HENLEY shop has been cleared of allegations that it was breaching planning rules.

Willow Basket, a whole foods store in Friday Street, was one of three businesses reported to South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, by Ken Arlett, chairman of Henley Town Council’s planning committee.

The other two were coffee shops Scene One Take One in Bell Street, which was previously the Flower Shop, and Berries in Hart Street, which was previously Jonkers Rare Books before that moved across the street.

Councillor Arlett claimed that all three required planning permission for changing the use of their premises.

Speaking at a meeting of his committee, he said the district council’s local plan said shops being used for comparative goods should be considered on individual merit.

He said: “It goes on to say secondary frontages need to request planning permission to change from A1 [retail] use. These will be given planning permission as long as they do not have a significant adverse impact on residents or businesses.

“That is why I brought this to the notice of enforcement.”

Henley currently has 15 coffee shops, with another one, Harris + Hoole, due to open at the former Maison Blanc premises later this year.

Anne Wilkinson, a planning enforcement officer at the district council, rejected Cllr Arlett’s claim about Willow Basket, saying there had not been a material change of use.

She said: “I am aware that the owner also sells hot drinks and has four small tables in the shop, where a few customers could consume or drink/eat an ice cream.

“However, given the size of the premises, there is limited room for customers to consume food/drink on the premises. I consider that the sale of hot drinks and ability for a few customers to eat their ice cream/drink on the premises is ancillary to the main A1 use and does not, in my opinion, materially alter the use of the premises.

“I do not consider that there has been a material change of use of the premises and therefore there is no breach of planning control.”

Councillor Will Hamilton told the committee that he was “surprised” that an investigation had been necessary.

“I think these businesses are the kind we should be encouraging to take off, whether they are selling ice -cream or whatever,” he said. “We should be supporting these businesses.”

Cllr Arlett replied that he was supporting businesses, adding: “We are sticking to this [the local plan]. The officer should read it. It’s their policy.”

Jane Tutill, who opened the Willow Basket in March 2017, said she was relieved that the investigation had finished. “I’m not a restaurant, I’m an organic whole food shop,” she said. “When I was asked about it, I responded with a long letter saying they needed to come and look at what I am doing. As soon as the officer came in they realised what was going on.

“The tables and chairs first went up when I realised people were standing in the shop. I thought if I couldn’t have a chair to offer them then something is not right.

“When I found out about the investigation I was upset because it felt like I was being watched. I would never want to do something which is not right.”

The district council says the two coffee shops are expected to make retrospective planning appications.

Meanwhile, a coffee shop in Henley that was forced to shut due to flooding will
re-open next Saturday.

Starbucks, on the corner of Market Place and Bell Street, has been closed since April 9 due to water pipe burst in the office above.

Workmen are renovating the premises, which had up to three inches of water on the floor when the flooding happened.

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