Café culture comes to the Compasses – but its controversial

The plan is for a pavement café area tucked into the dogleg between Corve Street and the Bull Ring. As you approach the front door of the Compasses, the café area will be in front of the window to the left, out of the way of pedestrians.

The seating and tables are to be used as an extension of the Compasses’ tea and cake business until 3pm. I understand the Compasses is thinking extending the café business until 5pm, which will be the latest allowed under the licence.

No alcohol will be allowed on the street, as at present.

The Compasses has a bad reputation – built up over many years – for its customers disturbing the neighbourhood, especially late at night. I know the current managers want to tackle this, but we won’t know whether they have managed to do so until we get warmer evenings.

I don’t think the night time problems are a reason for refusing a civilised daytime operation. I do not agree with a number of residents that the chairs and tables will impede pedestrian access.

That does not mean I that I don’t have concerns about the daytime operation. I am particularly worried that the area will become a haven for pub smokers and not for café customers. There will be no ash trays and smokers will be directed to the back of the pub. There is already an ash trough outside the door of the pub sponsored by Ludlow in Bloom. In the morning, there are often fag ends strewed across the pavement. There is a danger that the pavement might become he primary smoking area for the pub if staff are inattentive, busy or don’t feel able to insist customers retreat to the rear smoking area.

The licence conditions are clear: “Noise disturbance, smells or litter which cause a nuisance to other premises are not acceptable.” But how will that be enforced?

If approval is given, Shropshire Council’s pavements policy must be fully adhered to. The particular requirements for this site are:

– 1.2 metres of pavement needs to be kept clear (paragraph 3.3 of the policy)

– A physical barrier is put in place “in order to identify the area, to assist blind and visually impaired pedestrians and to contain the goods (tables, chairs and so on) within a defined boundary.”

– All equipment and structures placed on a public highway must be removed from the highway upon the cessation of the day’s trading and the area cleansed.

Council officers tell me these conditions will be in place.

With these conditions in place, I do not object to this application. I think a business like the Compasses should have the opportunity to develop and improve.

I think this process could have been handled better. It would have been useful if I had organised a meeting of residents with the applicants to talk through the issues. I doubt we would have reached agreement, but all of us would have been better informed.