LETTER: Concerns over plan for cafe

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I write as a home owner in St John’s Street, Chichester, that is situated on the edge of one of the most historic parts of the city and within a treasured conservation area.

The vast majority of buildings within this area are Grade 2 Listed residences, with the significant St John’s Chapel a Grade 1 Listed building containing many early 19th century features.

You will know that within this area is the Grade 2 listed Corn Exchange, which was previously occupied by the solicitors ‘Thomas Eggar’ for many years. More recently the building has been refurbished, and it is with regard to its future use that I write to the Chichester Observer.

Although previously rejected for change of use from office (B1a) to café (A3) use after more than 60 objections from the people of Chichester, there is again an application for café use and for the ground floor of the building to be occupied by the commercial café chain, the ‘Boston Tea Party’.

The application is for the ‘Boston Tea Party’ to provide a café that will seat 150 people and for trading to take place from 7am to 9pm each day of the week. There will be an additional hour of clearing-up by staff at the end of each day.

At a meeting of the Chichester City Council Planning and Conservation Committee on September 28, the proposal was discussed and residents were able to put forward their concerns and objections in respect of the scheme.

Although by the end of the evening it was unanimously agreed by the City Council Planning Committee that café (A3) use of the building would be inappropriate, there is still great concern among residents that at a Chichester District Council Planning Meeting on Wednesday, October 12, the scheme might receive the necessary approval to go ahead.

It takes little imagination to consider the environmental impact and damage that opening a very large café on Baffins Lane will have for residents and indeed visitors alike.

We must remember that the proposal is within a conservation area that is not only enjoyed by residents but explored by many visitors to the city.

A café, bordering the residential New Town area, will produce cooking odours, noise from music and extractor fans and there will be the detrimental effect of an increase in the number of vehicles visiting and parking locally.

Although within the plan, it is indicated that there will be little impact upon residents as deliveries will be from Baffins Lane and rubbish collection from East Street, given there is already an open parking area to the rear of the building where refuse collection presently takes place, it is likely that this will continue to be the case and the environmental impact will be very significant indeed.

Due to the size of the proposed café there will be multiple lorry deliveries and visits by refuse trucks each week that would be intolerable for local residents with the potential of causing damage to the area.

The plan incorporates a large internal ventilation system, that is at odds with the sympathetic internal refurbishment that has recently taken place, ending with a ventilation grill to be position on the roof and that is housed within a canopy that will be at odds with the symmetrical design of this fine listed building.

We will all agree Chichester is a wonderful city for all to enjoy. It is however vital that there is balance between good levels of employment alongside the provision of recreational facilities, including cafes and restaurants. Changing office space into yet another large scale eating house, that will certainly not enhance the ‘offer’ to the local community in the broadest sense, is simply not the answer here.

I hope that district councillors will understand the need to maintain the New Town area of Chichester for the enjoyment of residents and visitors alike, as well as considering and maintaining a well balanced city for all to enjoy and prosper.

Michael Sullivan

St John’s Street

Chichester