By ANN-MARIE MAY
PUBLIC complaints over tables and chairs obstructing footpaths have led to a crackdown on outdoor dining areas throughout the Coffs Coast.
Coffs Harbour City Council's senior ranger, David Brooks, this week issued a reminder to local establishments that there are strict guidelines over the use of tables and chairs on footpaths and pedestrian areas because they can easily impede wheelchairs, less mobile pedestrians, the visually impaired and parents with prams.
"We have issued three infringement notices in the past week and are currently visiting all cafes and restaurants in the City Square, the Jetty precinct and Sawtell that have outdoor dining to remind them of their responsibilities," Mr Brooks said.
"The recent bad weather has further emphasised the problem as many cafes are moving tables under awnings, in contravention of the agreed spacings.
"This has the double effect of forcing pedestrians out into the rain and closer to other street furniture such as sign posts and barriers."
Mr Brooks also highlighted the fact that some cafes and restaurants have increased the footpath dining areas outside their premises without permission.
Problems also arise when diners take it upon themselves to move tables and chairs in, or out of, the sun or to join up with other tables for larger groups.
"The guidelines are there for public safety. Pedestrians have a right to walk down any footpath without facing obstacles or obstructions," Mr Brooks said.
"Each cafe and restaurant has the same rights. No one is being singled out and each and every business owner will be visited and reminded of their obligations.
"Repeat offenders do run the risk of losing their licence to trade on the footpath."