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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

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Lake District town has 5,000 residents - and more than 60 cafes and food outlets

It has got a population of less than 5,000 but Keswick has more than 60 cafes and food outlets, sparking opposition to plans for yet another.

Paul Titley photo
Deputy mayor Paul Titley

Objectors to plans for the new cafe in the former Up and Running shop, in Main Street, are worried they could reach saturation point, with concerns about how it will cope during quieter winter months.

Deputy mayor Paul Titley said they had been contacted by people opposing it, largely cafe owners.

“They are of a mind there are too many cafes in Keswick,” he said. “[Their argument is] if you want to open a cafe, why not buy one that is for sale? There are 63 cafes or places selling food in Keswick.”

Mr Titley told the News & Star, the authority was powerless to object to a plan purely on the basis there were a lot of cafes already.

“We can’t have an economic view on this,” he said. “We are not allowed to from a planning point of view. We may sympathise with their point of view.”

He said he believed that, in the summer, the town could certainly support so many cafes due to the huge numbers of visitors. In the winter, it is a different story.

“The owners themselves are saying life is hard enough as it is,” he added. “There are quite a few empty cafes for sale. People were saying instead of opening a new one why not go into an old one?”

Laura Johnson, who runs Laura in the Lakes, on Main Street, said she wasn’t worried about the competition with new outlets opening up.

“The good ones will stay, the bad ones will go,” she said. “I’ve been in catering all my life. The well-established ones weather the storm during the winter.”

Laura, who is enjoying her fifth summer in her cafe, said problems occurred when people opened up cafes and tearooms without doing their research.

“You have to know what you’re doing,” she said. “I’m not concerned because I’ve got a good business and a good following.”

In Cafe Hope, Lake Road, Christian Moynes agreed. He was amazed to find out the town had 60 cafes and food outlets but said there was enough trade in the summer to support them.

He said the cafe, which has been there for three years, had benefited when the nearby Lakeside Tea Gardens closed a couple of years ago.

“We are in an ideal location,” he said. “We’re on the path to the lake and we employ seasonal staff but the full-time staff aren’t affected [by the drop in trade during winter]”.

Mr Titley said the recent Keswick Mountain Festival brought so many people into the town that twice the number of cafes wouldn’t have served everyone. “It seems to be very elastic,” he said.

The plans, by Simon Ruggles, have been lodged with the Lake District National Park Authority.

Mr Titley did not believe they needed council approval due to a recent relaxation in planning laws, allowing cafes and similar businesses to operate for two years without it.

But a national park spokesman said they did require permission from the authority because the building is listed.

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