Popular café at Norwich Prison could be under threat

Davina Tanner at Café Britannia. Picture: Matt Keal / mattkealphotography

Davina Tanner at Café Britannia. Picture: Matt Keal / mattkealphotography - Credit: Matt Keal

Action could be taken against a popular café and social enterprise, if city councillors decide Café Britannia has waived the rules around planning permission.

The Café Britannia. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The Café Britannia. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

The café, which launched in 2013, offers a work experience provision for in-mates of Norwich Prison and has grown considerably in both scale and popularity since it opened.

However, this growth may have led to it breaching Norwich City Council's planning policy, due to a technicality in the defined use of the building.

The café is based in a property that had historically been used as an officer's mess for prison staff, an ancillary use of the prison not requiring planning consent.

When the building was converted into the café, following a complaint in 2014, it was judged that its scale and the links to the prison meant this was still the case.

However, following further complaints, council bosses have now changed their tune on the matter and may take enforcement action against the café's owners.

Planning officer Robert Webb, in a report to the city council's planning committee, said: 'It was determined in 2016 that evidence from site visits and comments from neighbouring occupiers showed that a significant increase in activity from people entering and leaving the building via the access on Britannia Road occurred when the cafe opened.'

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Mr Webb added that City Hall had sought legal advice on the matter and had concluded the café and associated users were no longer ancillary to the prison, and consequently it would need planning permission to change its use.

It is now down to the planning committee to decide whether enforcement action should be taken.

The committee has three options; do nothing, close the café or allow it to continue with certain conditions, with officers recommending the latter of the three.

These include adding a new pedestrian entrance, cycle access and limiting opening hours to between 7.30am and 10pm.

A Britannnia Enterprises spokesman said: 'We have worked with Norwich City Council on an agreement of a way forward that's acceptable to us as Café Britannia, acceptable to the Prison Service and to our surrounding neighbours.

'We're confident we're going to be able to comply with the request of Norwich City Council.'