Homeless cafe’s hope sparks row in Sidmouth

Popular business finds new home after closure of Sidmouth Indoor Shopping Centre

A POPULAR caf� left homeless for 18 months after Sidmouth Indoor Shopping Centre shut could be back in business – but a High Street storm in a tea cup is brewing over the bid.

Soula Sherlock said she was “devastated” when the Central Market Cafe her family had run for a decade fell victim to the closure of the former indoor market in January 2010. She hopes it can finally return across the road at 106 High Street, a former wine shop, and has sought planning permission for a change of use at the premises so the retail outlet can become a caf�.

But some High Street business owners this week voiced fears over the potential loss of a shop and addition of a ‘28th’ town caf� in its place - and a community representative says she’s been inundated with concerns.

“We really have been waiting for the chance to relocate,” Mrs Sherlock told the Herald yesterday.

“This would give us a great opportunity to continue what we loved doing - serving our customers.

“We were devastated by the closure of the (indoor) market and feel, by opening up again at this location, we wouldn’t be stepping on the toes of other tea rooms or cafes.”

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The proposed caf� would have between six and eight tables – around half the amount in the indoor market.

Mrs Sherlock argues that, of the 31 shops from Tesco to Vinnicombes, there are only two tea rooms or caf�s.

She wants the proposed caf� to be “another reason for people to visit further up the High Street” and well-wishers and former customers have already begun to register their support with planning authority East Devon District Council (EDDC).

“I understand people’s concerns in the current climate but our priority is, and always has been, finding somewhere to keep serving our customers,” added Mrs Sherlock.

“My family was in the indoor market for 10 years. We were trading in the same surroundings (as other businesses) and there were enough customers to go round. It was never a problem.”

Proprietors of other High Street businesses have expressed alarm.

Brophy’s owner Stephen Tombleson said: “I’m not against anyone opening a caf� – but we’ll lose another retail outlet. There are 27 caf�s in the town. How far do you go? Visitors come here for the uniqueness of our shops, not coffee and cake.”

Kristina Narmontaite, who owns Baraza, said: “We’re not happy. Sidmouth needs more retail shops. Even our customers say there are too many cafes.”

District councillor Sheila Kerridge said she’d been stopped in the street and approached by around 40 people expressing concerns.

Councillor Kerridge has reserved her opinion on the matter until she makes her official representations to EDDC.

Sidmouth Town Council Planning Committee members threw their support behind Mrs Sherlock’s application for 106 High Street - the home of the Sidmouth Herald until 2009.

“They are the last ones from the indoor market to find somewhere,” said Councillor Mary Jolly when members discussed proposals last Wednesday.

Councillors did want a ‘no hot food takeaway’ condition imposed.

EDDC will decide the fate of plans.