'East Devon businesses need a council that's on their side...'
- Credit: GRW Photography
The government has once again torn up the red tape to allow pubs, restaurants and cafés to serve more customers outside – supporting businesses and giving new life to towns and high streets across the country.
Last week, you may have seen many businesses take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather by putting tables and chairs outside their premises.
Businesses can easily apply online to their local council to put furniture outside. Councils then charge businesses a nominal fee.
Local residents and regular visitors to Exmouth may recall that businesses on the Strand were able to set out tables and chairs last year.
The paved land on the Strand is owned by Devon County Council. They charged businesses £100 last year and will charge £100 again this year. The grassed land on the Strand is owned by East Devon District Council. They also charged businesses £100 last year.
However, this year, businesses in the Strand were offered four-figure fees by East Devon District Council to use the same spaces.
Frankly, trying to extract maximum revenue from local businesses still struggling to recover from the effects of the pandemic is a real kick in the teeth.
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We are just three weeks from Easter. At the time of writing, some East Devon businesses were facing a 60-fold increase in fees compared to last summer, just to put a few tables and chairs out.
The political leadership at EDDC, largely made-up of councillors from the East Devon Alliance Party, badly misjudged this policy as a cash-cow for the council. They faced a barrage of criticism from the public after many businesses took to social media over the weekend to highlight their plight.
I asked EDDC’s political leadership to urgently rethink their plans last week. Finally, after some reluctance, I understand moves are afoot to address my concerns which I hope will benefit the businesses involved. We all want the café and alfresco culture to continue.
With parking charges being doubled across the district, local businesses really need all the help they can get. They also need a council which is on their side.