CUSTOMERS of cafes and restaurants in the centre of Milford could be free to dine on the village green when the coronavirus regulations relax.
Parish councillors have backed the idea of putting socially distanced tables and chairs being temporarily on the green to help the five eateries surrounding it in High Street and Church Hill, once they are allowed to reopen.
But parish clerk Graham Wells stressed the move would involve ensuring the “vast majority” of the site is still available for normal everyday use by the public.
The idea was discussed by members who took part in last Monday’s scheduled annual general meeting online.
The Cave, Hurst on the Hill, La Perle, Village Coffee Pot and Polly’s Pantry Tea Rooms will be invited to take up the scheme.
Mr Wells told the A&T afterwards: “The consensus of opinion among councillors is that it is a good idea to allow the establishments to implement it.
“This will obviously not be done until the government instructs that eateries can reopen, and that is not expected to be before 1st July.
“Between now and 1st July we will look at how this can be implemented while adhering to social distancing regulations.
“The tables and chairs would have to comply, with the number of them, their location and the spaces between them.”
He added: “Also, the village green is a public open space, so the vast majority would have to be available for use by the people of the village.”
Owners of La Perle and Village Coffee Pot told the A&T they would consider the parish council’s idea but were unsure how it could be put into practice practically.
Both businesses, which have been operating as takeaway services during the pandemic, highlighted the sloping nature of the green as a concern.
Sam Hughes at La Perle said the restaurant had made an unsuccessful bid to New Forest District Council for seating on the green about four years ago.
“It’s quite a slope until you get halfway up the green, so it’s a question of putting tables and chairs somewhere they won’t just fall over,” he said.
“Realistically, by the time you use all the two-metre rules there’s not a great deal of space, particularly if you’ve got to ensure the general public can still use the green.
“It will be interesting to see how they would implement it. We would need to know about service – how, if we are keeping distance, the staff will be able to serve customers safely.
“I think the idea’s not too bad, but keeping it all clean – how are you going to do that?”
Both eateries’ owners also said they would not be able to invite diners back inside while social distancing measures are still in place as their premises were too small to safely accommodate them.
Emphasising the scheme’s temporary nature, the town clerk said the plan was for the businesses to return to normal operations once social distancing regulations are lifted.