THERE are fears jobs could be lost if a popular café is forced to close in a row over planning.

The owners of the Farm Café, at Chigborough Farm, have applied to Maldon District Council for retrospective permission to change the use of a barn into a café.

The café is operated by Black Pig Catering as The Farm Café while the kitchen is also used for outside events such as weddings, festivals etc.

The proposal is referred to as farm diversification and it is claimed that the use supports the local economy and is a social benefit as a food and drink venue.

Planning officers have recommended the bid is refused.

A report said: “The development is for a café, which is classed as a ‘town centre use’, outside of an existing town, village, or located employment area. 

“By virtue of the scale of the use proposed (up to 40 covers), it is not considered to be ancillary to the wider farm operating at the site. 

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Lights - The Farm CafeLights - The Farm Cafe (Image: Paul Tallowin)

“Furthermore, it has not been demonstrated to the satisfaction of the local planning authority that there is a justifiable and functional need for the activity within this rural location and that it could not have been reasonably located in existing towns, villages or allocated employment areas.”

A planning statement said the current owners purchased the site in 2011 and that there had been a restaurant at Chigborough Farm since planning permission was granted in 1982.

A spokesman for the café wrote on social media: "Since 2018, we have moved [the café] into the black barn in the same courtyard to maintain its viability (with about 10 to 15 extra covers).

"Now, it’s the farm café by the Black Pig

"Losing this venue at the farm will adversely affect the locals who like to use it and the tourism that we bring to the Maldon area."

Members of the public have shared their support for the proposed application.

Garry Driver wrote: “The café has been operating at the farm for many years and supplies a need for locals that obviously use it, as well as visitors to the area.”

Meanwhile, Leslie Wren said: “I see no reason why it has a detrimental effect on any other business and in fact attracts people from outside of the Maldon area who then spend money not just at Chigborough but at other locations within Maldon supporting local businesses.

“The cafe closure would also adversely affect local staff employed in the cafe as well as local suppliers.”