Owners of some Abington Street cafes who let their customers sit outside are to have their annual council levy more than tripled to £560 a year.
Northamptonshire County Council has issued a flat £170 charge to town centre cafes with outdoor furniture.
But owners have been told that following the upgrade of Abington Street, which has been partly reopened to traffic, cafes with 16 or more outdoor seats will attract a charge of at least £560.
A spokesman for the county council said the increase would also apply across the county.
“Cabinet approved a report in July this year, reviewing charges for highways services in the county, as there had not been a change for a number of years.
“Part of the review looked at neighbouring authorities
to make sure that charges were on a par with other counties.
“The charges’ review included ones for ‘objects on the highway’, which would include pavement cafe tables and chairs.
“The new proposal would be across the county and brings in a staged increase in charges depending on how many chairs are placed on the pavement.
“This is designed to be fairer to smaller businesses with a smaller footfall, while larger businesses, taking up more space on the highway, would pay more.
“Previously all businesses had paid the same, which was considered unfair.
Cafes placing up to four seats on the pavement would be charged £200 a year; between five and 10 seats would be £240; 11 to 16 seats would be £350; and 16 to 24 seats would be £560 each year.
Cafes with 25 seats and above would be considered on an individual basis.
Councillor Brendan Glynane, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group, said the move detracted from any attempts to attract more customers to Northampton’s main shopping street.
He said: “The whole reason for the £6m scheme was to enliven Abington Street, but this just deadens it.”
Although some businessmen may not agree, the opening of the top end of Abington Street to traffic was popular with many shoppers the Chron spoke to.
Barbara Nelson said: “I’ve just brought an elderly friend whose had a fall. She just wanted to go to the bank and a shop, so it’s perfect.”
Ray Cotton, 53, from Duston, said: “It’s a great idea, it allows people to spend their money here more easily.”
Dance Davighi said: “It’s not worth £6m and I wouldn’t take a risk coming this way on the off-chance of a space. But I can see the appeal of the convenience.”