Does Dorchester need another cafe?

Does Dorchester need another cafe?

Published by Maria Greenwood at 7:39am 14th August 2019.

Dorchester might not need another café – but it seems almost certain to get one.

Concerns about the high number of eating and drinking venues in the county town have been the main objection to a change of use for the former Samuel’s jewellers at 7 Cornhill in Dorchester.

Some were worried about the threat another food and drink venue would pose to existing businesses while others were unhappy about possible food smells and noise.

But Dorset Council planners have now approved the change of use for the former jewellers together with plans for an outside terrace and courtyard to the rear of the building.

South Street Dorchester Town Centre

Said one objector, Mr Adam Johnson, in a letter to the council:

"I would really like you to consider if this change of use for this unit would really benefit the town. Dorchester currently has a declining high street, especially with the Dorset County Museum closed for another year. The town is seeing a low number of tourists coming to the town and especially the top end of town near the museum. I feel that additional café or restaurant will not only struggle but also heavily impact the other cafes especially the independent ones which may see their business close down."

Describing herself as an Independent café owner Mrs Sara Vincent also wrote to object:

“Please, please, please Dorset council, NOT YET ANOTHER CAFE/RESTAURANT!!! On behalf of myself and many other independent cafe owners who I have spoken to recently, we are all suffering because there are already too many eateries in Dorchester, look around you…

“What is the point of changing a current shop to another cafe, for another one to close down the road, the town cannot sustain anymore, please listen as this is detrimental not only to us struggling businesses but to the town, if a cap isn’t put on how many cafes there can be, then we will end up with a town full of cafes that no one will visit because there are no shops left.”

South Street planters

But in a report approving the change of use a council officer addresses the point:

“t has been demonstrated that the proposal does not result in exceeding the adopted Local Plan’s allowance of no more than 25% non-retail uses being present within the primary shopping frontage area. 

There is currently a healthy mix of uses along Cornhill/South Street where it is considered the addition of a café/restaurant use that offers outdoor seating will contribute to the vitality and vibrancy of this main town centre high street.”

The new business, which has not been named, proposes to open  7:30 am – 6:30pm Mondays to Friday, 7:30 am – 7pm on Saturdays and 8am – 6pm on Sundays.

By Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporter