A PLAN to charge restaurants up to £350 a year to set up outside tables could be dropped after a top councillor agreed it was a bad idea.

It comes as popular Chepstow pub The Boat is locked in a separate planning battle over its outdoor riverside alfresco dining area.

The proposed charge, which for some restaurants and cafes could amount to a 3,000 per cent increase on the current £10 flat fee, had been included as a revenue raising idea in a Monmouthshire Council budget plan.

The scheme proposed that outlets with only a small number of tables and chairs on the street would have to pay £150 a year to the council, with the fee rising based on the number of covers, with a £250 fee for those in a medium band and £350 for those with a large number of on-street dining tables.

The current £10 fee covers a licence to trade on the public highway and lasts for 12 months, and the council said the increase to raise £6,000 a year was intended to recover the cost to its highways department of issuing the licences.

But the leader of the county council’s opposition Conservative group, Richard John, said the proposed income would have a minimal impact on the authority’s £23m funding gap while hitting hard pressed businesses.

The Mitchell Troy and Trellech ward member said: “In the grand scheme of a budget shortfall of £23m out of a total budget of a third of a billion pounds, these proposals raise just £6,000, which is peanuts for the council, but represent big sums for small independent shops, cafes and restaurants.

“The council should be supporting our high streets, not burdening our businesses with charges and red tape. These proposals are anti-business and need to be binned.”

In response the deputy leader of the Labour led council said he agreed with the Tory member.

Cllr Paul Griffiths, who is also the cabinet member responsible for the economy, said: “I think he makes a very good point and we are listening.”

Asked if that meant the propsed charge would be dropped the Chepstow Castle and Larkfield councillor replied: “At the moment I can only say it might be. The cabinet is considering all the points that have been made during the consultation.”

Meanwhile, The Boat in Chepstow has run into opposition over its bid to normalise its Wyeside dining area covered by a 12m x 9m heated canopy, which was put up in autumn 2020 in line with the then Covid regulations.

The pub says it has used outdoor tables for 15 years, but critics say the area abuts onto public land and stops the historic right to free access to the river, at what was a busy port back in the 1800s.

Objecting, SARA lifesaver Dr Toity Deave said: “The Chepstow Boat Club’s pontoon provides the only safe ingress/egress point on the Lower River Wye.

“I appreciate that the marquee was required during Covid-19 but it greatly restricts access to the pontoon and so I object to the marquee being given a permanent status...

“The Boat Club pontoon is the only location where we can transfer a casualty to a waiting ambulance/emergency vehicle in the area or where a paramedic (for example) can board one of our lifeboats...

“The access point at the pontoon is also key for kayakers, SUPs and other river users who do not want, and are not experienced enough, to manage the challenges of the River Severn.