Business boom helps to drive ‘cultural quarter’ calls

Several of the restaurant and cafe owners on Maiden Street are putting pressure on the council to he

Several of the restaurant and cafe owners on Maiden Street are putting pressure on the council to help them create a 'cultural quarter' in Barnstaple - Credit: Archant

New restaurant and cafe owners on Maiden Street put pressure on council to clean-up

Several Barnstaple businesses are calling on North Devon Council to support their investment and help create a ‘cultural quarter’ in the town.

Maiden Street, which links to the square, the strand and Boutport Street, is currently seeing a flurry of new cafés and restaurants opening there.

In the last two months, Brams Café, the Oak coffee shop and the Gurkha Kitchen have all opened down the road, with the re-located Fat Belly Fred’s restaurant set to open by the end of November.

On top of this, Starfish fish and chip shop has recently opened on the square.

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Fat Belly Fred’s owner Geoff Morton says everybody’s talking about the area.

“Everybody knows what’s going on in Barnstaple and they all know there’s a lot of investment coming to this side of town,” he said.

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“When people are talking about food, this is the place they are talking about.”

But owners are concerned about the current bin set-up and cars blocking the road, which they feel are currently stopping the street from becoming the cornerstone of the new cultural quarter of the town.

Town Councillor Simon Harvey believes the Council could do more when cleaning the road and emptying the bins.

“I’ve been coming round here regularly photographing the bins,” he said.

“I don’t know what they’re cleaning because it’s not clean at all around the bins.”

A number of the business owners met with North Devon Council leader Cllr Brian Greenslade and town centre manager Craig Bulley to air these issues on Wednesday, and put pressure on the council to do more to help achieve a ‘café culture’.

Owners proposed an area on the street for shared bins and a large-scale clean-up, including more lighting and pedestrianisation during daytime hours – which could include the introduction of bollards at either end of the street - to allow for tables and chairs on the street outside the restaurants and cafés.

Co-owner of Brams Café Amy Hartwell said that people from businesses on the strand and further up the road parking near the café was a major issue for her business.

“We had to move our advertising a-boards because the highways agency said they were an obstruction but they do nothing when there are three cars blocking the road,” she said.

“During half term, it was busy and the road was blocked off completely. It affects business, looks awful and there’s no regulations to stop them. We don’t want them there.”

Overall, they were pleased with Cllr Greenslade’s response.

“We have always been keen to introduce a cultural quarter in Barnstaple and I think Maiden Street is definitely becoming that now,” he said.

“Despite my girth, I must say I didn’t realise just how many eateries there are here!”

Cllr Greenslade assured local businesses that he would talk to the highways and environmental agencies to relay their concerns and set up a meeting in ‘three or four weeks’ time’.

And Mr Morton is confident that his decision to move Fat Belly Fred’s from Boutport Street to Maiden Street will prove a good one.

“If you look at the street, everyone wants it to work,” he said. “It just shows what passion we have about our businesses.

“We just need to brighten it up a bit and make it nice and tidy.

“If businesses want to invest and the council are willing to help then it has to be a win-win situation.”

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