Owners of walkers' and cyclists' cafe on Doncaster farm win planning battle to remain open - but not in original location

The owners of a cafe aimed at walkers and cyclists which opened without planning permission on their family farm have won a battle to keep the business trading.

Annabel's in its original location

The Lee family opened Annabel's in a converted railway wagon on land at Loversall Farm, near Doncaster, beside a public footpath in 2020 and the takeaway cafe became hugely popular during lockdown.

Yet the owners did not have planning permission for a change of use of the site when it opened, and withdrew a retrospective application when Doncaster Council planners recommended the scheme be refused consent after concerns were raised about traffic, litter and the impact on wildlife at two lakes near to the farm.

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Residents of a nearby housing estate had complained of inconsiderate parking by cafe customers and the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, which has since taken over the management of the new lakes as a nature reserve, submitted an objection on the grounds of potential disturbance to species.

The cafe then temporarily closed and later re-opened in a new location within the precincts of the farm property, beside a barn.

Doncaster Council opened an enforcement investigation over the case and officers have now concluded that the cafe can continue to trade in its new location under permitted development rights, meaning it does not require further consent - but it cannot return to its original site.

Over 5,700 people signed a Change.org petition calling for the cafe to be allowed to remain open - with Annabel Lee telling supporters that the application had been withdrawn to allow the family to address the concerns of the council, local residents and the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust before re-submitting.

Doncaster Council's director of economy and environment Dan Swaine said: “We have concluded our investigations and have decided that the café could be considered as permitted development and if this is the case a formal planning application to regularise it would not be required. We will continue to monitor the situation in case there are any changes such as the cafe relocating elsewhere within the site.”

The farm is on low-lying marsh land close to the Great Yorkshire Way, the iPort rail freight terminal, the M18 motorway, an Amazon distribution centre and the new Dominion housing estate. The lakes were recently constructed to boost biodiversity as a condition of approval for the iPort scheme, which was considered a major development.

The Lee family have since clarified to customers that the cafe is aimed at those arriving on foot or by bike only, and have discouraged people from driving to the farm or parking in residential areas nearby.