Council U-turn over its push for cafe culture

Owens Bar in Palmerston Road precinct, Southsea.'Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (132450-04)
Owens Bar in Palmerston Road precinct, Southsea.'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (132450-04)
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THE purpose of pedestrianising Palmerston Road was to promote cafe culture.

So when Owens bar applied to get its front windows turned into sliding doors to attract more customers, it thought it was doing the right thing.

But Portsmouth City Council’s planning officers decided to reject the bid because of complaints from nearby residents.

Owens’ manager Linsey Brown said the decision was frustrating because the whole point of it was to fulfil the council’s vision.

It was part of the Southsea pub’s major refurbishment and rebranding plans.

A pizza oven was going to be introduced inside the bar soon so everyone could watch what was being cooked, but that has now been postponed.

‘The way I feel about this is, we were doing this to encourage cafe culture,’ said Linsey.

‘We were trying to extend to the outside. But neighbours haven’t been happy.

‘Personally, I think some of the comments have been about the whole site, rather than about the pub. I am a very food-orientated manager and I have run very successful pubs in the past so it’s a bit frustrating.

‘It would be amazing if The Lord Palmerston, The Slug and Lettuce and Cha Chas were able to put tables out there and attract this cafe culture.

‘It would be phenomenal for Southsea.’

Two years ago, every councillor at the full council meeting voted in favour of spending £470,000 on the Southsea improvement scheme.

The aim was to promote a cafe culture on the south end of Palmerston Road, by widening pavements and stopping all traffic except taxis, bikes and buses using the road.

But there’s been strong opposition to the move ever since.

Many feel the objectives have never been fulfilled because they believe it has created problems with anti-social behaviour stemming from alcohol abuse instead.

Linda Symes, of Clifton Road, who has written a letter signed by 17 business to the council in the hope it will make changes, said: ‘Residents’ lives have been made unbearable by the bars encroaching on the outside space – not just at night but during the day and at weekends.

‘The cafe culture here is stifled by the bars, where cafe culture translates to drinking as much as you can, then using the planters as sick buckets or toilets.

‘It’s great that the planners using delegated powers had the sense to refuse the bi-folding doors. That would just have exacerbated the problems residents and visitors have to suffer when visiting this street.’

As previously reported, a consultation over whether the pedestrian zone should be kept, extended or scrapped was held this summer. The council has received more than 580 responses. A report with the results will be discussed at a traffic and transport meeting towards the end of the year.