A FURIOUS seafront business owner has slammed the Lyme Regis Town Council's controversial cover charges as “totally and utterly wrong”

Mr and Mrs Gibbons own the Largigi restaurant and said they may be forced to remove their outside dining area because of the expensive charge.

Mr Gibbons said: “It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see these charges are wrong.

“I pay around £5,000 a year to have tables and chairs out the front. To break even we have to aim to earn around £15,000 or more, just for that expense, not for the whole business.

“It is totally and utterly wrong. The extent of the charges is ridiculous.”

Mrs Gibbons added: “We don't feel appreciated by the council. We do by the customers and the public but not from the council.

“Admittedly, at times we have considered moving somewhere where we would be appreciated for what we do. What makes me really upset is a lack of support and the negativity towards us.”

The current system used by the town council is different to other councils in West Dorset and East Devon, with the majority using a per square metre charging system.

The council charges business who have outside dining £120 per cover and £10 per chair. The council decided against reviewing them at the recent town management committee meeting.

Mr Gibbons said: “It is not just the cost of the cover charges, we have to pay staff and repair and replacement work for the chairs and tables. We are really thinking about getting rid of them because it costs so much, which would lead to job losses.”

Compared to other charges levied by other councils in the area, the charges are the most expensive, with Devon County Council only charging £4.25 per cover.

Mrs Gibbons said: “We understand if a council wants some premium but the sad thing is since the de-centralisation from the national government it has opened up to different councils charging different amounts and it is not fair.

“If it was centralised it would be across the board and it would be fair. All we want is fairness and that is all businesses want is to be treated fairly and on a level playing field.”

Mr Gibbons added: “I am not sure of their justification for it and how they have come to agree this figure. How has our town council come to such a different rate than to other councils?”

There has been concerns about the price of the charges since they were introduced in 2011, and the majority of business along the seafront wrote to the town council in October last year to express their concerns.

Mr Gibbons said: “We have no choice but to pay it. All we can do to meet the cost is to put our prices up so the public will suffer, and that's why the prices in every business along the sea front are so high because of these ridiculous charges.

“We might have to go back to deck chairs outside and charge a premium for people to sit outside. We feel 100 percent let down by the council, they should be encouraging local businesses.

“They threw the review out last time (in October). When the whole front complains they should do something, and to not do something is madness.”

Coun Chris Clipson, chairman of the town council's Town Management Committee, said: “The council's Town Management Committee fully considered this issue and the petition from businesses.

“The report members received contained information on the charges levied by other councils.

“The committee reached a decision that, in some instances, outside seating significantly increases the size of the trading area for local businesses and did not consider the charges to be unreasonable.”