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Travel writer joins fight to save top West Dorset cafe

A RESPECTED travel writer has protested to West Dorset District Council about planners’ refusal to allow the Downhouse Café at Eype to continue.

Brian Jackman has travelled the world for 40 years and one of his favourite haunts is Nikki and Dean Exton’s café on National Trust farmland at Higher Eype.

Mr Jackman said: “I find it hard to understand that a district council whose residents depend so heavily upon tourism can arrive at such a bizarre decision.”

West Dorset planners decided last month that the café was in “an unsustainable location” for “commercial/tourist and community use”.

Its continuation would cause “additional single purpose trips by car along Downhouse Lane, resulting in congestion and inconvenience to residents due to the single track nature of the lane and lack of passing spaces, to the detriment of the residential amenity of the area.

Residents in five properties nearby complained – among other things – about having regularly to reverse 100 yards.

The Extons now say they could lose their livelihood and their home. The café was originally part of a farm diversification project, designed to save Down House Farm from what once seemed to be a financially impossible situation on fairly poor coastal pasture land.

Mr Jackman, who lives in West Milton, fears that “one of the West Country’s best loved cafes” could be consigned to oblivion. Downhouse Café is a Taste of the West gold award winner and has featured in numerous publications.

Mr Jackman said that he and his wife went there regularly to watch the Thorncombe Beacon peregrines.

“The food is brilliant and it’s so unobtrusive. One of the establishments which have helped to make Bridport the slow food capital of the Southwest.”

To the council he’s written this: “I have been resident in West Dorset since the late 1960s and have been a regular patron of the Downhouse Farm Café since it first opened more than 10 years ago.

“As a member of the National Trust and Dorset Wildlife Trust with a lifelong concern for the well being of the West Dorset AONB I see no reason why it should not be allowed to continue.

“Certainly its location could hardly be less intrusive, and I am at a loss to understand why permission has been refused on the grounds of its remoteness. If this were true, then countless other locations reached by narrow country lanes – in Dorset and every other corner of Britain – would also be closed down if the same criteria were applied.

“Over the years Downhouse Farm Café has become an invaluable pit stop for walkers exploring the nearby Long Distance Coastal Footpath, and its demise would be a severe blow to the visitors who flock to Dorset’s Jurassic Coast.

“In the circumstances I find it hard to understand that a District Council whose residents depend so heavily upon tourism can arrive at such a bizarre decision.

“Having been a travel writer for the past four decades, writing on eco-tourism and conservation for The Sunday Times and Daily Telegraph, I feel particularly suited to voice this criticism and beg you to think again before you consign one of the West Country’s best loved cafes to oblivion.”

Internal council documents assert that “Sustainable development is the core principle underpinning planning. Development should provide well-designed, safe and accessible development which aims to reduce the need to travel…

“It is preferable for community facilities to be located within villages, and preferably centrally, as such a location has greater potential for convenient and safe access by customers.”