Anger as Oakwood cafés told to remove outside decking because they 'harm' area's appearance

Decking at Hessian caf in Oakwood, LeedsDecking at Hessian caf in Oakwood, Leeds
Decking at Hessian caf in Oakwood, Leeds
A Leeds café owned by Masterchef runner-up Matt Healy has been served with a notice to remove its decking following complaints it did not 'fit in' with the area's conservation status.

Gron cafe in Oakwood, and neighbouring eatery Hessian, have both been told to remove their patios by Leeds City Council.

It's after the decking was installed in 2018 to attract more customers.

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More than a thousand customers and residents have since signed a petition calling for the council to allow them to keep their outside areas, with fears that the popular establishments will be forced to close without it.

Gron caf has also been ordered to remove its outside deckingGron caf has also been ordered to remove its outside decking
Gron caf has also been ordered to remove its outside decking

But the council say the patios 'harm the overall character' of the area.

Will Pugh, who owns Hessian, said staff's livelihoods "depend" on the decking, as the pavement outside is too uneven to sit on and "no one wants to sit inside in the summer".

Will opened Hessian in April 2017 and is now worried he will have to lay off staff after the notice was served asking them to remove the decking by October.

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The patio was put up last year without planning permission, and a retrospective application was submitted.

Hessian on Roundhay Road, OakwoodHessian on Roundhay Road, Oakwood
Hessian on Roundhay Road, Oakwood
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MasterChef runner-up Matt Healy's Oakwood cafe Gron applies to council to change...

Will said: "We put the decking up last year and we didn't really consider the planning side of it because everyone has decking here. We put retrospective planning permission in.

"It's exactly the same for Gron café down the road. We are appealing the notice and I am prepared to go to court over this - this is our livelihoods and we may as well close without the decking.

"The ground outside goes down about two metres as we are on a hill and the tables would be all over the place without it. But no one wants to sit inside in the summer. We would lose a lot of customers."

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Gron café, which is four doors down from Hessian, has since started a petition which has garnered hundreds of signatures, adding that their decking also doubles as a disabled ramp.

The vegetarian café is owned by Leeds restaurateur Matt Healy, who also runs The Foundry near to the city centre and The Beehive in Thorner, north Leeds.

The café said: "Unfortunately, due to council restrictions Grön Kafe and Hessian have been ordered to remove the raised decking areas as they claim they have ‘failed to enhance the local context and has significantly harmed the visual amenity, character and appearance of this conservation area’.

"We believe the raised seating area only serves to help elevate the local area in appearance, as well as supporting business and footfall."

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A notice served to Gron and Hessian said: "The Local Planning Authority considers that the alterations to the front, as a result of their scale, form and permission, represent an incongruous and dominant addition to this positive building within the Conservation Area and harms the overall character of the Conservation Area."

You can sign the petition here.

A spokesman for Leeds City Council said: “The council works closely with local businesses and we are fully supportive of those who want to enhance their communities.

“However, relevant planning permission should always be sought before work takes place so that, alongside the applicants, we can work together to ensure any additions they make are safe, sustainable and in keeping with the local area.

“In this particular case, work was carried out within a conservation area without the relevant planning permission being sought until afterwards. Conservation areas are put in place in areas of special architectural or historic interest to protect the character and appearance of the whole area.

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“Two separate retrospective planning applications were refused because of the scale, form and position of the proposed alterations and as a result, we have contacted the businesses concerned to ask them to remove their outdoor areas.

“We are always happy to discuss planning applications or the planning process further with applicants if they want to get in touch. The applicants also have the right to appeal the council’s decision which would be the correct process to follow if they wish to continue with the proposals.”