Council turns down Southsea cafe plans on matter of policy

PLANS for a new cafe in Portsmouth have been rejected despite fears 'derelict' units could be 'damaging' for the area.

Wednesday, 6th November 2019, 4:43 pm
Councillors refused plans for a new cafe in 104 Elm Grove - next to the Okey supermarket. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Councillors unanimously voted down proposals for a cafe in half of a shop space in Elm Grove, in Southsea, following advice it would go against policy.

The Portsmouth plan that was set out in 2012 states that in Elm Grove at least 50 per cent of its frontage must be used as retail, and only 23 per cent as restaurants, bars and takeaways.

Currently only 47.8 per cent of the road is used as retail.

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But the landlord of 104 Elm Grove, the unit in question, believed the plan was no longer relevant. Bob Levin said: 'It's a somewhat historic policy which in fact bears no reality to the real world as it is dated and in particular the use of the high street which we know has changed dramatically.

'I cannot continue with the deprivation of income as it is an ongoing requirement to pay business rates.

'Track records show that three major retailers in 104, 106 and 108 all failed.'

At the moment the neighbouring shop is in use as the Okey Chinese supermarket, although it appears 104 is being used for storage. Previously the units were used as a Blockbuster, a Morrison's and a My Local convenience store.

Speaking to the planning committee applicant Hersh Karadakh said: 'We are two families who have been living for 25 years in Portsmouth. We are just trying to set up a small business, it is simple.'

But committee members were concerned going against policy would set a precedent. Councillor Steve Pitt said: 'My main concern here is that when somebody asks us to do something outside our policy we need a really clear rational to do that. 

'We can't vary long-established policy without evidence.'

Cllr Terry Norton agreed, but added: 'There is nothing more damaging to conservation that rows and rows of empty shops.

'I think it would be unfair on others to deviate from the plan but there's evidence there that the plan is perhaps not working. What people really want are shops that are used, not empty derelict units.'