Coffee van causes controversy

Sidmouth beach. Ref shs 0285-04-15SH. Photo Simon Horn

Sidmouth beach. Ref shs 0285-04-15SH. Photo Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

An ‘almost unilateral’ decision to approve a coffee van concession has been called in after being slammed as ‘commercialisation’ of Sidmouth’s seafront.

A town council meeting heard how plans for a converted Ford Transit fire engine on the beach stoked fears of unfair competition that sets a precedent for other businesses.

The decision is to be ‘called in’ by the East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) overview and scrutiny committee.

Representing Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce at Monday’s meeting, Richard Eley said: “We think you [the town council] are right to oppose these proposals and are quite sure the townspeople are behind you.”

He said it represented ‘further commercialisation’ of the ‘unspoilt’ Esplanade – which was also subject to a bid from EDDC to install more beach huts alongside the Millennium Walkway.

The vintage vehicle has been granted permission to operate between 10am and 6pm from April 1 to September 30.

Speaking on behalf of the Sid Vale Association, Richard Thurlow told the meeting that the decision had been made ‘almost unilaterally’ by district councillor Ian Chubb, the portfolio holder for the environment.

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“It will destroy the view in the conservation area and will set a precedent,” said Mr Thurlow. “I would ask you to vehemently oppose it.”

Alan Weaver, whose son Matthew runs the Fort Café, said: “I see it as unfair competition – these businesses are happy to compete, but only on a level playing field.”

Town clerk Christopher Holland said such arguments were put forward by the council when it opposed the concession licence application last May.

The town council will be able to have its say when it is discussed by EDDC.

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