STRING OF WORRIES: Cafe owner defends seating plan
Cafe Maison Norton, Image: Google Street View
A cafe owner has defended efforts to create a new seating area after a string of worries over noise and homeowners losing privacy.
Blueprints have been lodged to allow chairs and tables to be placed at the back of Café Maison, on Norton High Street.
But the move has sparked 14 objections so far – including from residents on The Garth and Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham.
One householder wrote to Stockton Council fearing a loss of privacy and “noise and babble” from customers causing problems.
She added: “This proposed garden seating-eating area is smack bang in the middle of residential homes – so it doesn’t take a genius to work out the negatives for residents who have lived there in peace for many years.”
Cigarette smoke, loss of parking, and odours have also featured in objection letters.
Another neighbour added: “The noise and smells, seven days a week, all year round, will just be unbearable in comparison to the peaceful times we currently enjoy.”
However, Café Maison owner Andrew Pickett said outside space was now needed – and believed there would be little disruption to many neighbours.
“We have left lots of trees up and gone through all the correct procedures with trees,” he added.
“We’ve left some in place at the back so people wouldn’t be bothered.
“It’s well protected and well away from the rest of the houses. It shouldn’t be a problem.
“People just don’t like change.”
Mr Cunningham lodged an objection against the conversion on Tuesday – fearing it might bring a licensing application for serving into the evening in future.
The Norton resident also shared worries about its effect on the village’s long-standing parking troubles.
The Labour MP added: “No-one wants to halt any small business developing, but planners will also be well aware of the parking issue in Norton High Street.
“As a resident of Norton myself, I celebrate the opening of new restaurants and other facilities and it is clear there is enough business for both existing and new businesses to thrive.
“Sadly, this popular destination has brought pressure on existing parking provision, of which there is very little near the location of the applying business.
“The loss of parking in the former Co-op site – soon I understand to be redeveloped – has also impacted throughout the area.”
Council environmental health teams have raised no concerns about the conversion as long as the café doesn’t open before 9am or after 5pm.
Mr Pickett told the Local Democracy Reporting Service it had been a “horrendous” time during the pandemic – adding outdoor seating had been recommended since covid struck.
“It’s got an ideal space – it wasn’t getting used and was an overgrown jungle,” he added.
“All we’ve done is we’ve made that space usable and there shouldn’t really be any objections.
“I think you’ll find nobody is able to be bothered by smoke because, apart from the fact fewer people smoke these days, they are so far away.”
Mr Pickett said they had thought about neighbours in their plans and had left more than half of the garden as a “buffer”.
“This is going to be (for) a minor increase in business,” he added.
“We mainly get walk-ins and parents dropping their kids off at school – it’s those people we’re trying to attract.
“There’s not going to be an increase just because we’ve got seats in the garden.
“It’s not going to increase trade massively – it’s not going to bring a huge increase in our capacity or turnover.
“It’s a limited increase – it’s going to be a nice pleasant place to sit and with covid, that’s what we’ve been encouraged to do.”
The owner added initial plans were to put four tables outside to test demand from customers.
Separate council plans are taking shape to create more parking at the southern end of Norton High Street next year.
Words: Alex Metcalfe, Local Democracy Reporter
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