"PAY up or remove the tables and chairs": That's the message from councillors as a row over outdoor seating intensifies.

A business owner - who is one of four on the Marine Parade refusing to pay - described the charge as 'ridiculous', but Lyme Regis Town Council maintains they are set at a 'reasonable amount'.

Charges stand at £125 per cover for premises with tables – increased from £120 in April this year – with charges for premises with chairs only at £10.

The cash brings in more than £22,000 per year, but the income being withheld by the four businesses who have signed a letter stating their intention to refuse to pay - the Old Boathouse, the Alcove, Largigi Thai restaurant and Ocean View restaurant - is worth more than half of that.

A meeting of the management and highways committee recommended that the council write back to the proprietors to inform them the council has a legal right to charge for tables and chairs under the tripartite agreement, to inform them they should remove the covers if they do not wish to pay, and request timely payment of invoices.

The issue will now be discussed by full council on November 1 for a final decision to be made.

Speaking after last Wednesday’s meeting, Larry Gibbons, owner of Largigi Thai, said he was disappointed at the town council’s response.

He said: “Since the tripartite agreement came into force we have been charged this ridiculous fee which now stands at £125 per cover. It’s unsustainable to keep increasing the price. In the rest of West Dorset the charges are only £16 per cover.”

The tripartite agreement between the town council, West Dorset District and Dorset County councils came into force in 2011 to clarify where the responsibility for managing and maintaining the Marine Parade lies. The cash raised through the cover charges pays for the upkeep, including the street furniture, barriers, floral decorations and shrubs and litter bins – although not the road surface, which remains the responsibility of Dorset County Council.

But Mr Gibbons said the cover charge is so expensive that it takes the whole of his net profit to pay.

“What the town council doesn’t seem to realise is that we are only busy for four months of the year. All we want is a level playing field, to pay the same as the rest of West Dorset. We really can’t afford these prices.”

Cllr John Broom, chairman of the management and highways committee, said: “Under the tripartite agreement, the town council believes it has the right to charge for concessions, as agreed with West Dorset District Council and Dorset County Council in 2011.

“The council believes the amount charged for tables and chairs is reasonable for the commercial benefit these businesses gain from outside seating.

“If the concession holders do not want tables and chairs, the council is happy to withdraw the concession.”

It’s not the first time businesses have spoken out about the issue.

A petition went to the town council in 2013 but the management committee declined their request to change the charges, stating that, in some instances, outside seating ‘significantly’ increases the size of the trading area for local businesses.