Camden draws up street cafe guidelines

In Paris it is an accepted part of everyday life. But in north London eating outside at pavement cafes is not so simple.

Camden council, determined that Gallic customs adhere strictly to the realities of life in an English metropolis, has drafted a series of strict rules to govern dining al fresco.

Customers must be visible from inside the premises and have a clearly defined space - preferably with attractive

flower displays. Cafes must leave at least 1.8m of walking space, 2.3m on bus routes, and must not block drivers' vision or access for the emergency services. Council officials will ensure residents are not disturbed and all applications will be renewed annually.

The draft proposals are designed to replace the need for planning permission - which does not impose such strict conditions - with a licence system. Cafe owners would have to prove that they can conform to the regulations when

licences are renewed once a year. The council says the rules - to be considered at the borough's next environment committee meeting - are necessary to prevent unscrupulous traders blocking the pavement.

A spokesman said: 'Owners must be sensible about this. I have come across cafes in the borough which block the pavement.'

He admitted, however, that Parisien cafe society does not have such worries. 'I think they are used to it in France, or even in Soho, but not in Hampstead or Belsize Park.'