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Friday, 31 October 2014

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'Discrimination' row Cumbria cafe boss to defy planners and open late

A café boss has vowed to defy Lake District planners by extending his hours of business – even though he does not yet have permission.

Keswick cafe Kieron Graham photo
Kieron Graham

Kieron Graham says that his popular Filling Station Cafe on Crosthwaite Road in Keswick has already lost a substantial amount of custom because he is currently forced to close at 6pm every day.

He has been battling to extend his opening times since February of last year, hoping to persuade planners that he should be allowed to remain open up to 11pm.

His original application, backed by town councillors and even by a planning officer, was turned down in June last year, prompting him to lodge an appeal in December with the Planning Inspectorate.

He has been told a final decision on that appeal may be made as late as June.

Mr Graham is convinced that his cafe has been unfairly singled out with restrictions because it is “biker” friendly.

Frustrated at the time the process is taking, he has now confirmed that he will press ahead with longer opening hours regardless.

“It’s not as if I’m applying to build a nuclear repository – I simply want the option to be able to stay open longer,” he said. “In practice, I’ll probably stay open most days until about 7.30pm, but as things currently stand I am forced to close at 6pm.

“The business is doing well but I reckon the 6pm closing means I’m losing 30 to 40 per cent of potential business.

“I’ve already lost one summer of business and I’m now in danger of losing another. I believe it’s all to do with the fact that we are biker friendly. It’s discrimination.”

Mr Graham is adamant other similar businesses in the Keswick area are allowed to stay open without such restrictions. His application attracted opposition from the nearby Pheasant Inn, but he insists that there have been no examples of bikers misbehaving while at his cafe.

He added: “There are so many cases where they are allowed to stay open later – like Wetherspoons in Keswick, which can stay open till 12.30am; and we are further away from houses.

“So we are going to go ahead anyway. ”

Keswick town and county councillor Andrew Lysser said he could not comment on Mr Graham deciding to open later anyway but he added: “As a town council we fully supported him, and as a county councillor he has my full support, as would any other business in this town which wants to develop and employ staff.

“I can understand his frustration. It’s taking a ridiculous length of time. To me, it’s a decision that could have been made overnight.”

Fellow town councillor Tony Lywood said: “The fact that the Lake District National Park is trying to restrict his hours when he’s opposite a pub is utterly ridiculous. If he was opposite an old folks’ home I’d understand but he’s beside a garage on a main road.

“The main objector was the pub opposite. In planning terms, it was utter nonsense. I do feel’s he’s been very unfairly treated.”

A Planning Inspectorate spokesman said: “We understand the need to decide appeals quickly and the majority are decided within 26 weeks.

“We hope to publish the decision on this case before the middle of June.”

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