Council forces celebrity chef to tear down decking approved in lockdown
A celebrity chef has condemned a tourist resort’s council for its “pettiness” and “lack of support” after he was forced to demolish his restaurant’s outdoor decking area.
Mark Hix had been ordered to remove the £20,000 wooden structure, which he had erected to create extra seating outside his Oyster and Fish House in Lyme Regis during the Covid pandemic, by the end of March.
He has now taken down the three-tier decking, warning that the decision by Lyme Regis council not to grant him permanent planning permission could harm his business and the local tourism industry.
Mr Hix, who posted a photograph of the structure being taken down, said in a statement: “It’s a sad day. Thank you Lyme Regis Town councillors for your total lack of support.
“Our deck will be gone by Friday as requested. We fought the battle to the very end, but sadly lost. We shall soldier on at the Oyster House regardless.”
The 60-year-old star of The Great British Menu had been given temporary permission to build the decking after the government relaxed rules to help restaurants recover from the pandemic.
But when Mr Hix tried to make the 40ft by 26ft decking permanent last December, Lyme Regis Town Council rejected his application and ordered him to remove it from their land by the end of this month.
Mr Hix’s battle to save his decking won widespread local support, with more than 10,000 signing a petition calling for a rethink.
The chef said he was grateful to his supporters, adding: “Huge thanks to our friends who have been so kind to come and volunteer to take the deck down and put it back to the piece of grass that was never used.
“Also huge thanks to all the people who have got behind us in so many ways to try to keep our deck. It will be a very different spring and summer this year, but what can you do?”
Mr Hix had written on Instagram that the fight with Lyme Regis council had left him “feeling utterly deflated and beaten”.
He pointed out that only one of the seven councillors who voted against giving him planning permission had ever been to the restaurant, which had recently held a council-backed meeting to support local fishermen.
The forced demolition of the decking has been met with anger and bewilderment by Mr Hix’s friends and supporters.
Responding to his post, Tracey Emin, Turner-prize winning artist famous for her installations, described the council’s decision as “totally insane”, adding: “Who locally was so against it?”
Andi Oliver, fellow chef and The Great British Menu presenter, said: “So petty and nasty. I’m sorry you didn’t prevail.”
Geoff Baker, a friend of Mr Hix, expressed his absolute “disgust” at the councillors’ decision.
“This is the decision of a few petty councillors which will overrule 10,000 people who want this decking to stay. It is absolutely outrageous. It benefits the council and all of the businesses nearby,” he said.
“People come to Lyme to enjoy the food there and his reputation attracts thousands of people a year. It’s putting jobs at risk and it’s all to get back an empty piece of grass.
“We should chip in to get a plaque put up there saying ‘Here lies the site of what was once a bloody good restaurant idea’.”
Graham Turner, one of the councillors who voted against the decking, defended the decision.
He said: “The government was very clear about what you could have in the pandemic. I am afraid the decking was not acceptable and had no permission from the council.
“I’m surprised but glad that Mr Hix has decided to take it down and done the honourable thing in the end.”