A York café’s profits have plummeted by more than half after a council “technicality” robbed them of their outdoor seating.
52 Broadway Coffee Shop in Fulford, described as a “meeting point” for the local community, has been forced to remove its outdoor seating and the owners have been told they can’t even open their Velux windows.
Theresa Burn, who runs the café and has lived in Fulford for 30 years, said this was “her worst day”, and feels that the council “has it in for us”.
She said that it feels as if they are “still living in the medieval times, being ruled by ‘do as I say’”.
The family café, showcasing sweet treats baked by Theresa’s daughter Ellie, installed a marquee for outdoor seating during the pandemic. But threats from the planning office to take formal enforcement action mean they have now faced a 60% loss in profit after having to take it down.
And the café’s Velux windows must stay shut in this stifling heat due to noise concerns.
“Nobody’s sitting inside because it’s stifling hot and we can’t open the windows,” Theresa said.
Cafés in York city centre have been able to continue using their outdoor seating until September 2022 for a premium of £100. But because Theresa owns the land on which the 52 Broadway seating was built, she has had to apply for planning permission to reinstall the marquee – which has cost “thousands of pounds” in surveys and additional measures.
Ellie said: “There will be no coffee shop soon if this goes on”.
‘Heavy handed’ approach
They have had to lay off their Saturday girl, from the local Steiner School, as a direct result, while regulars have even brought camping stools to sit outside in protest.
Last year the café applied to build a Viking-style outdoor shelter. But this was refused, despite receiving 106 letters in support and only 8 against.
Cllr Andy D’Agorne, who represents Fishergate ward, called the planning officers’ approach “heavy handed”, and said that 52 Broadway had been “singled out for different treatment because of the planning status”.
He contrasted the cafés treatment with another Fulford application, to build Frederick House, a six-block development for students.
Cllr D’Agorne said: “This amply illustrates the selective choices made by City of York Council planning enforcement, where a development for 300 student dwellings is allowed to continue construction for months in breach of planning conditions pending revised height being approved – yet a small cafe owner is subjected to such intimidating and persistent demands to close their operations down immediately Covid restrictions are relaxed.”
Ellie told of how the café “definitely created a coffee culture in Fulford – there’s nowhere to go”.
It became a meeting point for army mums from the local barracks, with the outdoor seating also allowing disabled access, becoming a respite for residents of local nursing homes, who are frequently brought in for lunch by carers.
Theresa, who reopened 52 Broadway in November 2019 whilst in remission from throat cancer, said it was wonderful that the café became a place where those from the care home were “sitting with people having a normal cup of tea or coffee. It changed their lives”.
Now the outdoor seating has been removed, this has been made impossible.
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“I want to retire due to ill health,” Theresa said. “I want Ellie to take this over, but I don’t want to leave her a mess.”
Veronica Wilson, a retired solicitor and resident of Fulford has been tidying the green at the junction opposite the café since April 2021. She said that “52 Broadway is popular with local residents who appreciate the service it gives. It has become a meeting point for the neighbourhood.”
Cllr D’Agorne said that when the café was opened he “was really excited that there was this opportunity for the community to meet each other”, with volunteers from the café aiding efforts to tidy the area of land and bus stop opposite.
We have asked City of York Council for a response