Business owner in row over canal-boat

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A planning row is threatening to sink a coffee boat business run on a borough canal.

Donna Milsom, who runs The Coffee Boat on the canal near Kirk Bramwith, is facing eviction from her permanent mooring because she expanded the towpath business without consent.

Mrs Milson, aged 43, has had a commercial mooring on the Stainforth and Keadby Canal for three years and has been serving drinks and cakes to passing walkers and cyclists. But the acquisition of a larger boat, Brass Rivet II, which she has converted into a cafe with interior seating, has been deemed a breach of her original planning permission and the Canal and River Trust have terminated her mooring agreement.

Mrs Milsom opens five days a week and has up to 50 customers on summer Sundays, and many of them have submitted letters of support in her appeal against Doncaster Council’s enforcement action.

The Coffee Boat is next to boats that are permanently moored for residential use.

Mrs Milsom said: “The residents want my business closed because they want this stretch of the canal to be private for them. I feel this is personal, because I have been attracting people to the area.”

“We are doing as much as we can not to be evicted and my customers want their voice to be heard. We feel the cafe boat is a hub for the community. This a lovely stretch of the canal and it is where we want to be.

“The C&RT should be encouraging facilities like ours to attract more people to the canal. People want it to be open, accessible and with a watering hole like ours.”

But the C&RT say they are concerned that the site cannot safely support what is a much larger operation and because of the planning enforcement notice they have instructed the Milsoms to cease trading at Bramwith immediately

Their spokesman said: “If they do not do this they will be subject to our usual enforcement procedures. We very much regret that it has come to this as we greatly value businesses on our canals and rivers but, as a responsible landowner and a charity with a duty to other people that enjoy our waterways, we’ve been left with very little alternative.

“We’ve made a final offer to help relocate the business and we genuinely hope that the operators accept our support, and work with us to achieve this so that their business can continue to operate from a more suitable location.”

A planning spokesman for Doncaster Council said: “The new boat Brass Rivet II does not have the benefit of planning permission. It’s use for the trade of food and drinks, a cafe/restaurant and a takeaway use has resulted in increased visitor numbers which is of a scale which causes harm to the countryside setting, causing increased car usage through visitor attraction and harm to the amenities of other canal users.

“The development is of a scale incompatible with existing site infrastructure with limited car parking facilities and turning areas, toilets and no lighting of the roadway/tow path.”

Dave Binks, spokesman for the canal residents, said: “We have shown that it is the Milsoms, by breaching their permitted planning permission and mooring contract, who have made their position untenable at the current mooring.

“It is not the first time that moorings have been revoked for the Milsoms. They do seem to think that they are beyond reproach for their actions and regularly state ‘we can do whatever we want and no one will stop us’”