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Pavement seating charges an 'easy way to get more money off small businesses'

  Outdoor seating at Caesars Coffee Lounge in Barry

New annual charges for businesses that have outdoor pavement seating is an "easy way to get more money out of smaller businesses" according to one Vale of Glamorgan café.

The charges, which start in the county next month, will see businesses having to pay between £150 and more than £750 depending on the number of pavement tables and chairs a business has.

A fee has always been in place for outdoor pavement seating, but the fee will change from a set price for three years, to an annual charge.  

Marc Cheshire who owns the Caesars Coffee Lounge on Holton Road in Barry said he doesn't understand the need to bring the charges in when there are still restrictions on how businesses can operate.

Speaking to Bro Radio’s ‘Vale This Week’ programme, Mr Cheshire also said the changes will cost him more. 

"It used to be just under £500 for three years, now it's going to be £750 per year for us, but also they're charging per chair over a certain number, so I'll be paying nearly £2000 over three years, with no real reason for the increase in price.

“I don't understand really the Council's reasoning behind it, saying it helps smaller businesses, because I can't think of a single business that will benefit from it.

He added: "It seems like an easy way to get more money out of smaller businesses that are already struggling after the last year.

Outdoor seating area at Caesars Coffee Lounge in Barry (Marc Cheshire)

The council said the charges were aimed at limiting the amount of space cafes take up on the pavement and making street access easier for disabled people.

Plans from the Vale of Glamorgan council show the charges will change from a standard £497.50 charge for three years to a set variable annual price. 

The charges for outdoor seating from July are as follows:

  • One to two tables with up to eight chairs – £150
  • Three to four tables with up to 16 chairs – £300
  • Five to 10 tables with up to 40 chairs – £500
  • 11 tables or more with over 40 chairs – £750, plus £35 extra for each chair after 40

The fees were initially delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the Council rejected calls from Conservative Councillors and local businesses to delay them further.

Mr Cheshire believes that the council should have delayed the charges until a later date.

"I understand we use public space, I understand it needs to be looked at but what I don't understand is the urgency for it to introduce it next month.

"Why can't we wait until after all the restrictions are lifted? To me that makes the most sense. Once all the restrictions are lifted and we can have a full capacity back in the Café then fair enough you can charge us, but for now we're at less than half capacity, so the outdoor area we have on Holton Road is what we need to actually keep the business running.

Lis Burnett from the Vale of Glamorgan Council

The Vale of Glamorgan Council Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Education and Regeneration, Liz Burnett said: "There have always been charges for placing furniture on pavements. Whereas previously these were set at a flat rate for three years, our new fees are set according to the number of chairs and tables a business chooses to place outside and are paid on an annual basis. We believe this makes them more flexible and cost effective for small businesses. The fee for a business with seating for up to 40 people on the pavement is less than £10 a week.   

“During the Covid-19 pandemic the Council issued dozens of street café licences to help local businesses adapt. This was done exceptionally quickly. The new licences were offered to businesses and no cost and this free period was extended beyond its planned end date to offer additional support to businesses recovering from the pandemic. 

“Our experience of recent weeks suggests that this is likely to be a busy summer period for hospitality businesses in our towns and resorts. Proper regulation of pavements and other public spaces helps us keep these safe for pedestrians and more importantly ensures our resorts and town centres can be enjoyed by those in wheelchairs or with young children.”   

You can listen to the full interview with Marc Cheshire on this week's 'Vale This Week' programme below:

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