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Ben’s Yard Stuntney restaurant allowed evening opening despite ‘impact on Ely’ fears

‘Many pubs/restaurants in Ely and Soham open well into the evening’

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The restaurant and café at Ben’s Yard, Stuntney, have been given permission to remain open in the evenings despite fears they could damage the night time economy of nearby Ely. East Cambridgeshire District Council planning committee approved the application today (Tuesday).

“This generates an additional 30 hours over the course of a seven-day period and would allow evening opening each day of the week where currently there is no evening opening,” says Ben’s Yard planning agent Richard Seamark.

East Cambs Council planners disagreed and felt the extended opening hours “would create a substantial turnover and has the potential to detract trade from the existing centres of Soham and Ely.

East Cambridgeshire District Council planning committee approved the application today (Tuesday) for Ben’s Yard café and restaurant which will increase opening hours by four hours Monday to Saturday and six hours on Sundays and bank holidays

East Cambridgeshire District Council planning committee approved the application today (Tuesday) for Ben’s Yard café and restaurant which will increase opening hours by four hours Monday to Saturday and six hours on Sundays and bank holidays

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“The application has failed to identify a need to expand this element of the existing facility in order to ensure its ongoing viability”.

The change in opening hours also attracted opposition from City of Ely Council who had “concerns regarding the extension of the opening times and the impact this will have on the night time economy in Ely”.

But the planning committee voted to approve the application with 7 in favour, 0 against and 2 abstentions.

Mr Seamark had explained that previously the restaurant closed at 7pm “but this created an environment where it was too early for evening dining before the restaurant was then required to close.

“The restaurant now subsequently closes at 5pm, which has led to job losses because of the two-hour reduction in daily trading hours.

“It is considered that there is a strong need for longer opening hours, and customers are regularly requesting it.

“Many of the pubs/restaurants in Ely and Soham open well into the evening up to times of 23:00; this includes the restaurant at the Old Hall situated to the north of the site which is open until 22:30.

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“The expanded operating times would therefore be comparable to operating conditions in place for other venues in the local area.

“The extension to the café hours is also being sought to be more responsive to local community groups and organisations visiting the site.”

He said: “For example, the Ely Runners Group held a 5k running event using the woodland trail circuit, but the café was unable to capitalise on participants wanting to get refreshments”.

Officers reminded councillors that “it is fundamentally not accepted that the proposal would form an extension to an existing tourist facility as it is concluded that the proposal would be tantamount to a new evening restaurant use in the countryside.

“Therefore, given that the restaurant and café would extend beyond a time that supports the primary retail role of the site and as the application does not present a persuasive viability argument regarding the need for the evening use, it is relevant in this instance to consider the impact of this proposal as a stand-alone retail enterprise”.

The officers’ report also pointed out that Ben’s Yard has been open to the public since 29 June 2023, with the current application submitted three months after its opening on 25 September 2023.

“Therefore, the council contend that arguments about viability are limited due to its limited operating period,” said the report.

“It is important to the determination of this current variation application to note the parameters to which the original application was determined within.

“A very detailed and careful consideration was given to just how much development could be supported on the site without resulting in impacts to the local centres.

“It was therefore only accepted on the basis of the original proposals that the site would be unlikely to result in significant effects to nearby local centres.”

 

 

 

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