OVER 1,000 signatures have been collected in a petition against setting up a teashop at the historic Dunster Castle.

Traders in the village have set up the Dunster Action Group and say a restaurant at the castle would draw visitors away from the high street.

The group hopes to find out just how much trade Dunster stands to lose if the 50-seater facility opens as planned in 2011.

Christine Moore from the Chapel House Tea Rooms said: “If plans go ahead visitors to the castle will never get into the village.

“There are 14 places to eat here within two minutes of the proposed site so there is no issue over choice or availability.

“Our survey suggests 60 per cent of visitors would use the castle’s café, where the trust estimates around 40.

“But if you compromise and say 50 per cent of people spending around £7 a head that means £437,000 will be taken from the village economy a year.

“We are hoping to persuade the National Trust to look into other ways to raise revenue without having such a big impact on the village’s fragile economy.”

But property manager at the castle, William Wake, believes the café would pull more crowds into Dunster.

He said: “We don’t want to cause a negative impact on the local economy.

“We think it would generate more visitors and that quite a lot will go down to the village.

“A tea room would also provide a source of income to help support the castle which costs £550,000 a year to keep open.”

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