ONE of a pair of independent Winchester businesses has declined to discuss criticism that their outside tables are blocking a city centre street.

It comes after a letter from Stephen Percy published in the Hampshire Chronicle complained the tables outside Overdraft and Greens, on Jewry Street, severely reduced the width of the thoroughfare.

The use of pavement tables was expanded during Covid lockdown to give businesses more useable outdoor space amid the social distancing rules.

Comments on the Chronicle website say that the reduced width makes it difficult for wheelchair users, people with pushchairs or limited mobility to navigate the street.

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One commenter, Seb Constable, wrote: “Have you tried to get a wheelchair through that narrow gap, bearing in mind that this corner of Jewry Street gets very busy? Have you tried getting a wheelchair over that cable lying in the middle of the street?

Hampshire Chronicle: Jewry StreetJewry Street (Image: Contributed)

“There is no problem with outside tables, and nobody has said that there is. The issue is that having tables on both sides of a busy stretch of pavement that lies alongside a busy road is a really bad thing for pedestrians. I live nearby and I am disabled (not in a wheelchair and my disabilities are invisible), and it can be really difficult to get through when you're less mobile. In pedestrianised town centres outside seating isn't an issue as there is more room for pedestrians. Josie's in Romsey is a good example.”

Another commenter, Southern View, said: “It’s a valid letter to keep people aware of public accessibility on pavements. I think you’ll find it’s 1.5 metres that must be kept clear, this one looks on the limit but there are more that don’t get picked due to lack of council enforcement.”

However, MT Feeling responded: "What a silly letter, what's the issue with it? For once the city council is trying to support businesses as a result of being closed or restricted business during covid."

Greens owner Peter Neave said: “My wife and I with our family opened Greens in 1989, we have been providing hospitality and employment at this site for the city of Winchester for 35 years.

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“Our tables and chairs are licensed by Winchester city council. The process is applied for annually, and paid for by the business to the council and a notice is placed in our window for 28 days every year to give the community the opportunity to raise any objections before the licence is granted.

“In this increasingly challenging economic time, we need support more than ever.”

The manager of Overdraft, who refused to provide his name, said: “We have permission from the council for the benches, and we put our licence in the window. There is not much more to say.”

A Winchester City Council spokesperson said: “Any business that sells, or proposes to sell, food or drink can apply for permission to place furniture on a highway.  We work with businesses to ensure that necessary criteria are met including access for pedestrians, wheelchair users and pushchairs. Hampshire Highways as landowner is also consulted as part of this. Permissions are reviewed annually. Hospitality businesses were particularly hard hit during the pandemic, and we always seek to balance the benefits for the businesses with public access.”