Wisbech cafe owners are told they need a licence if they want tables and chairs outside their shops

Wisbech Town Centre, Market Place

Wisbech Town Centre, Market Place - Credit: Archant

Wisbech cafe owners have been reminded they need a licence if they want to provide an area for customers to sit outside to enjoy a drink.

As part of a regular inspection businesses were sent letters saying they need a licence if tables and chairs are on the public highway.

Cambridgeshire County Council said they must apply for a licence at a cost of £50 per square metre.

The cost is half that charged to Cambridge cafe owners who pay £100 a square metre.

Town councillor Samantha Hoy said she did not understand why the law was being enforced all of a sudden in Wibech.

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But a county council spokesman said it had always been enforced - it is simply that a mail shot went out to remind cafe owners of their legal responsibilities.

Cllr Hoy said: “I have asked if the county council can allow the businesses to have the tables out whilst they apply for a licence and they have said yes.”

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“Speaking with the businesses they would have been happier if we had written to them and given them some notice at the very least say six months.

“I understand this has been a policy in Cambridgeshire for a number of years but it has never been enforced in Wisbech. Why? And why suddenly enforce it?” she said in a post on a Facebook discussion page.

But a Cambridgeshire County Council spokesman said: “Licensing for this has been in place since the 1990s. It used to be the responsibility of Fenland District Council but is now down to us.

“In 2015 we changed the pricing so that for example Cambridge city had higher prices than rural areas like Wisbech.

“As part of our regular inspections our inspector noticed there were certain businesses that had furniture outside but were without licenses so we wrote to them reminding them.

“The majority of businesses have accepted that and are being compliant. We can keep their furniture while we process their licence.”

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