Chichester has almost reached capacity for the number of restaurants and other non-shopping units allowed in its retail centre.
Of the city’s central shopping area, 24.75 per cent of store frontage is occupied by non-shopping businesses, just under the 25 per cent limit set by Chichester District Council.
Vacant lets previously used for eateries or offices may be taken for any use without exceeding the cap, but there are now no vacant retail units that are small enough to be re-purposed within the 25 per cent limit.
The figures, published by the district council last month, are part of a planning policy to monitor shop usage in the centre.
The 25 per cent monitoring indicator is restricted to the city’s ‘primary’ shopping area – closest to the Market Cross – and is considered when determining planning applications.
Limits are raised to 75 per cent for a wider ‘secondary’ area, including Southgate, the Hornet and the end of North Street, which is currently at 54 per cent.
The 150-seater restaurant planned for Baffin’s Lane will not affect the figures, but Caffè Nero’s application for a vacant let in North Street has been submitted as ‘mixed’ retail and restaurant use.
The frontage for the café and shop would be eight metres, just over the 4.5 metres remaining for non-shopping usage if it were classed soley as a café.
A Chichester District Council spokesperson said the survey would be checked if the usage cap was a ‘critical issue’ when considering a planning application.
In the wider city centre, restaurants, cafes, pubs and takeaways make up 16.4 per cent of occupied space, 13.7 per cent of 343 units in use (see diagram).
But the Chichester BID directory of 650 city centre traders lists 80 eateries.
Not included in either set of figures are in-store cafés in shops such as M&S and House of Fraser.
The district council also classes outlets such as Shake-a-Delic and Greggs as retail units, but beauty salons (unlike hairdressers and barbers) are not. Clothing shop figures do not include shoe shops.
Chichester’s central streets have been approaching the 25 per cent limit steadily, with non-shopping use at 23.63 per cent in February 2015 and 24.42 per cent in June 2016.