THE prospect of a new cafe in a well known Chester street has divided local opinion.
The application has been made at 52 Brook Street by Mrs S Williams and Cheryl Weaver who are seeking approval for a change of use of the vacant shop, previously an Internet cafe.
It would open between 7am and 3pm Monday to Friday, 8am to 2pm on Saturdays and 10am to 2pm on Sundays, according to a report.
Planning officers have had 14 letters, divided equally between those who support the cafe and those who object.
Objectors argue there are already too many food and drink outlets in Brook Street which creates problems related to their viability.
They fear that similar businesses could close down, stifling attempts to regenerate the area and the cafe would also add to parking problems.
The city council recognises Brook Street as a key pedestrian route between the city centre and the railway station and seeks to enhance the street visually and as a retail centre, according to a report.
Of 52 premises on the street, 15 are pubs, restaurants or takeaways.
Eight are vacant.
With the exception of a small number of day time cafes, most of the premises are likely to be busiest at night outside normal shopping hours, suggest planners.
Pointing out that 15% of all premises on Brook Street are not occupied, they argue the supply of retail units is clearly outstripping demand.
Although the cafe would remove a shop, they do not believe an additional food use would significantly erode Brook Street's retail character.
Unlike most other food and drink uses on the street, it would be open during the day.
The cafe would bring a vacant unit back into use and boost activity in Brook Street, improving its overall vitality.
If there were to be a significant increase in demand for shops, no planning permission would be needed for it to return to retail premises.
No objections were raised by the County Engineer.
Recommending the application should be approved, planning officers point out that competition is not a planning matter.
Given the number of empty units in Brook Street, the cafe would help to attract greater numbers of people in the daytime.
The application is due to be considered at a meeting of Chester's planning board taking place on Wednesday (January 7) at the Crowne Plaza hotel at 10.30am.