Despite a recommendation by Dorset Council planners to turn down the scheme, an alfresco restaurant perched on the cliff above Kimmeridge Bay in Dorset has been given temporary permission to operate.
Councillors at the planning committee heard how the restaurant would support local food producers and create new local jobs over five months every summer, so voted to give the new venture two years to prove itself.
The World Heritage Site cliffs of Kimmeridge Bay
A trial of the pop-up restaurant of picnic tables and mobile catering vans called the Boat on the Bay, proved a huge success in August 2022.
It’s believed that was due to the fresh lobster and crab brought in daily by Kimmeridge Bay’s resident fisherman and also thanks to its location with outstanding views over the English Channel.
But it ran foul of Dorset planning officials after putting in plans to open it for longer – over five months every summer – despite getting support from Kimmeridge Parish Council, local conservation officers and even the Jurassic Coast Trust.
The planners recommended that the application from the village’s Clavell Restaurant be refused permission to provide a sit-down restaurant for up to 100 people next to a private car park.
The application also included providing an all-weather canopy, along with portable toilets, bins and a boundary hedge along with post and rope barriers.
View across Kimmeridge Bay showing restaurant site on cliffs, centre
‘Serious concerns’ about impact on rural appearance
Planning officers argued that the summertime pop-up eating place would harm the tranquil spot in the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and had ‘serious concerns’ about the impact on the rural appearance of Kimmeridge Bay.
But councillors were moved by a passionate plea from Emma Vearncombe, of Clavells Restaurant, on how the clifftop venue would take its food from local sources, create extra summer jobs for the village and keep tourists wanting to return – without damaging the scenic spot.
Clavells restaurant, which has operated in Kimmeridge village since 2008
“Our menu uses locally sourced food and fish”
Emma told the Eastern Area Planning Committee of Dorset Council on Wednesday 7th September, 2022:
“We currently employ 28 people in Kimmeridge and our menu uses locally sourced food and fish, reducing food miles and adding to the resilience of the local economy.
“The Boat on the Bay takes its name from the boat of Kimmeridge’s full-time fisherman and the menu will celebrate the fruits of his labour, such as lobster and crab, which we are very privileged to enjoy.
“Food concessions have long operated at the bay, but with limited local provenance, such as a Mexican food van which was stationed there in recent years.
Car parking, but few facilities, on the cliffs above Kimmeridge Bay
“Visitors falsely expect to find a shop or cafe at the bay”
“I want to enhance visitors’ experience to the bay, as many falsely expect to find a shop or a cafe there and have to drive back into the village where they may well find the local restaurant is full.
“We do recognise this is a sensitive landscape and that the character of the bay changes throughout the year, from a honeypot destination in summer to a more remote and wild location in winter.”
The bay is a remote and wild location in winter
All traces of restaurant to be removed in winter
Councillors heard that plans would not impact at all on listed buildings in the area, such as Gaulter Cottages and Clavell Tower, and that all traces of the pop-up restaurant would be removed between October and April – while the number of employees could rise to 44.
They voted to give two years’ temporary planning permission to the Boat on the Bay to open between May 1st and September 30th with conditions that it wouldn’t operate after 6 pm, that there would be no generators, takeaway food or music on the site, and that it planned to blend in with the landscape as much as possible and restore the site to the way it was each winter.
The Boat on the Bay pop-up site, now closed, will be back next summer for longer
“The area is anything but tranquil at times”
A spokesman for Kimmeridge Parish Council said:
“We gave very careful attention to all the details about the restaurant, its position in the landscape and its effect on the wider environment.
“The area, with Army and oil facilities, a car park and boat sheds, is anything but tranquil at the times and dates of the proposed operation.
“Gaulter Cottages and Clavell Tower may be Grade II listed, but we don’t consider that the new restaurant would detract from them.”
Nick ‘The Fish’ Ford on board Obsession in Kimmeridge Bay
Kimmeridge crabs and lobsters will go on the menu fresh daily
Working 300 lobster pots every day
The Boat on the Bay is named after the craft of Nick ‘The Fish’ Ford, who has been the resident fisherman of Kimmeridge since the late 1980s.
He works 300 pots between Mupe Rocks and St Alban’s Head in Kimmeridge Bay every day in his catamaran ‘Obsession’ and the lobsters and crabs he brings back to shore are usually eaten within hours.
Happy customers at Boat on the Bay in August 2022
The restaurant’s mobile vans are modelled on a National Trust design to blend in to sensitive areas
“Eating out has changed over the years”
“We were delighted with the result from the planning committee – no-one had objected to our plans and there was overwhelming support from the parish.
“I opened Clavells in 2008 and it has gone from strength to strength – and there is a very real need for a pop-up satellite restaurant on the bay in summer.
“We will enhance quality of the summer experience at Kimmeridge, eating out has changed over the years from a picnic in the car and people now want a whole day out experience.
“We can be a big part of that, source our fish, meat and other ingredients locally, and employ even more local people right through the season.”