City inspired by the European cafe culture: Leeds council has taken the initiative on outdoor dining. David Lister reports

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The Independent Online
A PAVEMENT cafe will be opened on the steps of Leeds Town Hall next month, as the leader of Leeds City Council welcomed the Independent campaign to bring more pavement cafes to Britain's cities this year, and to brighten up the forecourts and entrances of our great cultural and historical institutions.

Jon Trickett said yesterday: 'Leeds welcomes the Independent's campaign. There is surely no greater pleasure in life than simply sipping a cup of coffee, a glass of wine or beer and watching the world go by. We have the best-known symbol of local government in the country in Leeds, and by this summer its exterior will be foremost among a dozen or so street cafes, as part of our plan to make Leeds a truly European city.' Meanwhile, numerous readers have responded to our campaign, indicating their support for removing parked cars from the forecourts of institutions such as the British Museum.

Readers have suggested other places in their cities they would like to see given a more Continental feel, or simply freed from cars so that the public can sit out and savour the atmosphere.

Fr Nigel Griffin, rector of St John on Bethnal Green in east London, is one of a number who says: 'The courtyard of Burlington House in Piccadilly would be a wonderful eating place if the cars were cleared away - as the Royal Academy has occasionally managed for special fund- raising events. Why not throughout the Summer Exhibition?'

H Frank Smith from Poole in Dorset suggests: 'A delightful piazza could be created in the sordid cement pit outside London's Waterloo Station known as 'the Bullring'. There is ample room to provide a selection of different services, on the lines of the catering floor of the Waverley Markets in Edinburgh, and incorporating bars, fountains and flower beds.'

Jonathan Beard of the geography department at Cambridge University calls for a new public space in front of St Pancras Station and the new British Library in London, while Arthur Edwards of Welwyn, Hertfordshire, calls for an improvement at Cambridge University. He says that the university library, 'an important building close to the tourist attraction of the Backs, has surely as depressing an approach to such a monument as could be devised. What about organising a competition for the design of the library forecourt?' This, he says, would include a link to the Backs as well as a cafe or two.

G W Thynne of Coulsdon, Surrey, agrees that that the parking of civil service cars on Horse Guards Parade is 'a disgrace to London . . . the main problem will be that of overcoming the resistance of civil servants to being inconvenienced. Political clout will be needed.'

Some readers have called for changes in the licensing laws and for all-night cafes on the Parisian model. Others point out that there is little point having pavement cafes unless the quality of the service and of the food and drink improves.

As T F Manning, from Wokingham in Berkshire, writes: 'A good cafe, pavement or otherwise, is a rare find.'

(Photograph omitted)

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