Fears proposed new city centre café could hit Exeter’s ‘hidden gem’

Fears have been raised that a proposed new café with outdoor seating in Exeter will block off access to ‘hidden gem’ Gandy Street.

An application has been submitted for what would be the first permanent use of 228 High Street since it was a Co-op bank.

It was previously home to short-term leaseholders Calendar Club and its off-shoot Halloween HQ.

The scheme, for a brand new two-storey café, would see the entire interior remodelled and the ‘curved’ exterior on High Street squared off and completely replaced.

An outside seating area on the High Street pavement is also proposed.

It would see four sets of tables and chairs placed in line with the existing columns and ‘block it off’ as a public thoroughfare.

Concern has been raised about how the plans would negatively affect the nearby Gandy Street – with all seven comments on the Exeter application objecting to it.

Andy Burnet, from Chococo, said: “Though I have no objection to the change of use, I would like to register my objection to the alteration of the frontage.

“The proposed alteration to square off the frontage will restrict access to Gandy Street making it a narrow and dark entrance to the street.

“This will dissuade people from using this entrance to Gandy Street from the High Street.

“The implication of this is that it will reduce the footfall to the area, which will be detrimental to all the businesses on Gandy Street.

“Given that Gandy Street is a marginal trading area at best, any fall in footfall is likely to push a portion of the businesses to the brink and result in further loss of businesses from Gandy Street, just as it’s starting to rejuvenate. I strongly object to these alterations.”

Louie Rivers commented: “Gandy Street is already known as ‘Exeter’s hidden gem’ and I believe making the entrance less obvious to the public will only hinder footfall.”

Neil Perry said: “While we are very pleased that the building at the entrance to Gandy Street will be finally occupied and we wish the new owners well, we are concerned about the proposed narrowing of the entrance to Gandy Street.

“The top part of Gandy Street is a major artery into the street which is already very narrow and quite concealed.

“By squaring off the building it is clear that this artery will be narrowed further and the entrance somewhat further concealed.

“There are many business on this street which depend upon the ‘accidental’ footfall of shoppers who do not know that Gandy Street exists, and by concealing its entrance further jeopardises one of Exeter’s independent and most loved streets.”

Devon County Council’s Highways department has said that no reason for refusal can be made, adding: “The area where the tables and chairs are to be placed is not on the public highway and is on private land.

“There is a footway on the other side of the canopy where there is an area for pedestrians to walk around the proposal, albeit not being on the desire line.

“It is therefore on this basis that a highway reason for refusal cannot be made.”

The plans application states: “The intended occupier would sell hot and cold drinks for consumption on and off the premises, along with sandwiches, other cold food and confectionary.”

It also adds that there is a demand for such units with the rise of ‘café culture’ in the city.

Exeter City Council will determine the fate of the application.

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