A REVAMP at Long Barn will pose no threat to other businesses in Alresford, a committee heard.

Long Barn’s proposal to rejig its internal layout, enlarging its kitchen and serving area, sparked six objections.

Objectors said the needs of Alresford should come first and that as an ‘out of town’ outlet Long Barn’s expansion breached the Local Plan.

One objection stated: “The applicant is using the cover of the pandemic to expand their business. The Covid excuse for the reorganisation of the space is no longer valid.”

City councillor Margot Power told the committee: “This is no longer a café attached to a shop. We are looking at commercial expansion of an out of town shopping destination. This is a nail in the coffin of shops in the market town. By allowing the development of an out of town shopping outlet you are damaging a market town and that is contrary to the local plan.”

By allowing the proposal the café could sell a winder range of meals and it would go from a café to a restaurant, she added.

Long Barn opened in 2009 about 200 yards outside Alresford on Bishop’s Sutton Road, primarily to sell lavender products but has now evolved to sell a wider range of goods.

Planning officer Catherine Watson said the Local Plan was not being breached as the plan was a reorganisation of space not an expansion.

There were three letters in support.

Long Barn director Jane Marsden said the application was to improve efficiency and not to expand the range of meals offered. It would continue to close at 5.30pm. She said it employed 45 local people, she lived in the town and had raised a family there and was committed to the town’s success.

Cllr Jane Rutter said before Covid Long Barn had 90 covers; it now will have 80. “The application doesn’t seek to expand the existing business but to meet operating need and make the café more resilient behind the scenes, to create a joined-up space. We are not asking to increase the size of the café space nor to expand the menu but to make the property more efficient.”

Cllr Chris Edwards said he had detected a “degree of hostility toward this application, a sense it was undermining the town and a number of reference were made to the fact that this business is paying agricultural rates rather than retail rates.

“I hear there is no increase in hours, no increase in covers, no increase in size of the menu. I find it hard to find a valid reason why we should not support this.”

Committee chairman Therese Evans said she met people who used Long Barn as a starting point to explore the town and spend money there.

The committee voted unanimously to approve the plan.