Celebrity chef Mark Hix threatens to withdraw charitable support from ‘anti-business’ Dorset council

Celebrity chef Mark Hix goes to war with council chiefs as he slams ‘small minded’ officials for REFUSING bid for permanent outside eating area at his Oyster and Fish House restaurant

  • Celebrity chef Mark Hix is threatening to withdraw charitable support for Dorset
  • Council have thwarted his plans to retain an outdoor area he set up in Covid
  • Wooden deck was automatically approved with relaxed pandemic regulations
  • But now he has to seek further approval to keep the structure permanently 
  • Dorset council has rejected the proposal, which he says is ‘anti-business’ 

Celebrity chef Mark Hix is threatening to withdraw charitable support for the local Dorset community after the council ordered he tear down an outside seating area which was temporarily approved during the pandemic.

The Great British Menu and Saturday Kitchen star built the large wooden deck at his luxury seafood restaurant in 2020.

The three-level extension was automatically approved as the government relaxed regulations to help the hospitality trade serve food outside.

Mr Hix applied to retain the structure permanently but town hall bureaucrats have rejected the proposals, claiming it encroached on public gardens.

Ministers faced backlash earlier this year from suburban and rural Tory MPs over a proposal to allow homeowners to build extensions without planning permission

In Mr Hix’s case, the 40ft by 26ft space outside his Oyster and Fish House enjoys sweeping views of the sea at Lyme Regis on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast.

Celebrity chef Mark Hix is threatening to withdraw charitable support for the local Dorset community after the council ordered he tear down an outside seating area which was temporarily approved during the pandemic

Celebrity chef Mark Hix is threatening to withdraw charitable support for the local Dorset community after the council ordered he tear down an outside seating area which was temporarily approved during the pandemic

The three-level extension was automatically approved as the government relaxed regulations to help the hospitality trade serve food outside

The three-level extension was automatically approved as the government relaxed regulations to help the hospitality trade serve food outside

In Mr Hix's case, the 40ft by 26ft space outside his Oyster and Fish House enjoys sweeping views of the sea at Lyme Regis on Dorset's Jurassic Coast

In Mr Hix’s case, the 40ft by 26ft space outside his Oyster and Fish House enjoys sweeping views of the sea at Lyme Regis on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast

The 59-year-old restaurateur, who opened the eatery in 2020, said his income would be reduced by around 30 per cent if he is forced to tear the £20,000 decking down. 

That would be a devastating loss at any time, but it’s made worse by the impact of Covid paired with soaring energy bills and a mounting cost of living crisis which is pushing restaurant bosses to the limit

Businesses that were previously profitable are now making a loss with energy prices having more than doubled for most this year. 

Martin Williams, the chief executive of Rare Restaurants, which owns steakhouse chain Gaucho, said earlier this year small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are at risk collapsing due to rising costs. 

David Nicholson, owner of the popular Black Rat in Winchester, Hampshire, says his energy costs have jumped five-fold from £20,000 a year to a staggering £100,000. 

Celebrity chef Tom Kerridge also weighed in on the issue, stating on of his pubs faced a near 700 per cent surge in electricity costs – from £60,000 to a staggering £420,000 a year.

Pubs across the UK currently fear having to hike the price of pints to £20 or close altogether this winter. 

Mr Hix is now threatening to pull out of annual food festivals and fundraising events he hosts, which he says have raised ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds’ for the local RNLI and boosted tourism.

The TV personality and food writer claims to have the support of almost every eatery in the quaint harbour town.

He has accused the Lyme Regis Town Council of being ‘anti-business’. 

Mr Hix said he’d consider burning the wood from the decking outside the town hall in protest if he has to take it down. 

‘We have got the best reputation of any restaurant in the town and the small-minded council should be on our side. These people have no interest in business and seem to be anti-tourism.

Mr Hix vowed to withdraw support for 'anything that brings tourism to town events, festivals and local charities connected to the council'

Mr Hix vowed to withdraw support for ‘anything that brings tourism to town events, festivals and local charities connected to the council’

The Great British Menu and Saturday Kitchen star built the large wooden deck at his luxury seafood restaurant in 2020

The Great British Menu and Saturday Kitchen star built the large wooden deck at his luxury seafood restaurant in 2020

‘Over the years, I have done a lot for the town in terms of charity and events but they’ve totally ignored that. You would think they’d be more supportive.

‘We have had a food festival showcasing local produce and there was live music on the beach which raised a lot of money for the lifeboat station and the Fisherman’s Mission, a charity supporting the families of those lost at sea.

‘The whole town would benefit from the tourism – 5,000 people visited. After having done a lot for Lyme Regis, it just seems pointless.’

Mr Hix vowed to withdraw support for ‘anything that brings tourism to town events, festivals and local charities connected to the council’. 

‘I have the support of most of the businesses in the town. It will probably come to all us restaurants shutting down the streets. That’s the general feeling among us.

‘I might even take the wood from the terrace and set fire to it outside the town hall.’

The deck was built on a piece of land in Lister Gardens, owned by the town council, which he said had ‘never been used’ before he developed it.

The TV personality and food writer claims to have the support of almost every eatery in the quaint harbour town

The TV personality and food writer claims to have the support of almost every eatery in the quaint harbour town

Dorset Council will make a final decision on Mr Hix's planning application in the near future

Dorset Council will make a final decision on Mr Hix’s planning application in the near future

The council rejected the plans, claiming they were an ‘ingress’ into a public amenity and had a ‘detrimental effect on the gardens’.

The Lyme Regis Society, which aims to safeguard the architectural and natural beauty of the town, also objected, saying that making the decking permanent would ‘set a dangerous precedent in leasing or selling off parts of Langmoor Gardens for commercial benefit.’

Mr Hix continued: ‘Before I built on it, there was a bit of grass on a slope with a hedge. There are no bylaws saying you can’t build on that land and it was completely useless.

‘The council granted permission and now they’re objecting to me keeping it.’

The restaurateur said the outdoor patio provided huge relief during Covid, bringing in a lot more business and serving as a ‘great addition to the gardens’, particularly in summer.

‘Ninety per cent of people here support it but three councillors have objected. The worst case scenario is that I have to take it down. It would have a big impact on my business.’

Dorset Council will make a final decision on Mr Hix’s planning application in the near future.

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