THOUSANDS have signed a petition backing a Lyme Regis restaurant which claims it is being 'forced' to remove its outdoor seating area.

Celebrity chef Mark Hix has been at loggerheads with the town council for several months over the controversial decking area outside The Oyster and Fish House.  

An extraordinary meeting of Lyme Regis Town Council was held last week, where councillors voted for the area to be removed by March 31 as it it encroaches on the nearby public gardens.

Built during the pandemic, the extension was approved temporarily as the Government relaxed regulations for the hospitality trade to serve food outside.

Mr Hix applied to retain the 40ft by 26ft space permanently but councillors have remained divided over the future of the decking, which enjoys stunning views of Dorset's Jurassic Coast.

Following the town council meeting, a petition has now been launched to 'save Mark Hix's decking'.

At the time of writing it has garnered nearly 3,000 signatures and it is hoped it will be debated at the next town council meeting on Wednesday, February 15. 

Writing on social media, The Oyster and Fish House called the council's decision 'genuinely shocking' and called for people to sign the petition.

"At the last council meeting, seven councillors, six of whom have never set foot in our restaurant, had the power to enforce the removal of our deck area, which puts our business into a very dangerous position," it said.

"We have been inundated with the most amazing messages from so many people, wanting to help support and save our deck. So now is your chance to help. 

"This deck was essential for our business to survive, and due to the increasing pressures on our industry, it remains crucial, hence why we started a planning application last year to keep it."

The restaurant has previously indicated that it is considering submitting another planning application to Dorset Council for outside seating after a previous one was turned down. 

"The current deck does not obscure any views for anyone in the garden, to the contrary, it offers a space to sit and enjoy the view," it added.

"We have had so much feedback saying that it enhances the area, and also give people a safe space to eat if they do not feel comfortable indoors post-pandemic.

"An annual rent of a proposed £14,500 would be paid to the council to put towards the upkeep and development of the town.

"The restaurant and Mark’s name, undoubtedly brings people to Lyme Regis, which in turn supports other local businesses.

"Please take a moment to sign this petition. We are all very emotional, upset, angry [and] devastated in equal measure.

"We all work so hard to create a wonderful restaurant with great food and service, in a beautiful spot on the Jurassic Coast.

"We don’t want to see the deck go, and if it affects the business as badly as it could, we also don’t want to lose our jobs."

LRTC clerk John Wright said after last week's meeting that the council was 'concerned' about the decking's 'permanent encroachment' into the public gardens.

"The public gardens should be kept free of commercial development for the enjoyment of local residents and visitors," the council added. 

"The initial request was only agreed by the town council as a temporary Covid-related business support measure.”