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Cafe plans put on hold

A POPULAR cafe in the city’s Priory Park has been saved from demolition after members of Chichester District Council’s cabinet agreed it was too soon to make the decision.


At the cabinet meeting on Tuesday, councillors looked at the enhancement project on Chichester’s Priory Park in which officers had recommended demolishing the current depot, public toilets and cafe buildings, constructing new public toilets and a roller store and turning the brick pavilion into permanent use for a cafe and also providing space for community uses including existing clubs currently using the park.


The cabinet decided that it was too soon to make a decision on the wider enhancement scheme. They have agreed to put it on hold until the planning position regarding the temporary cafe facility in its present location is resolved.


The planning permission for Fenwick’s Cafe is due to expire in 2020. Meanwhile, work to remove the old depot buildings and repairs to the statue will go ahead.


The approved work was part of a bigger scheme to enhance the north west corner of Priory Park, with the aim of improving its facilities from 2020 onwards.


This area of the park contains several outdated buildings, including an old storage and maintenance area. The aim was to remove or refurbish them and then open out the refurbished space to a variety of community uses including a cafe in the brick pavilion.


Cllr Tony Dignum, leader of the council, said: “Over the last year we have been liaising closely with groups who use the park, including the current cafe owners, about ways in which we can improve the facilities in this area of the park for everyone who uses it.


“After the cricket club vacated the brick pavilion in 2016, the council, as landowners thought this would be an opportunity to look at this area as a whole. The aim was to see how we can make better use of the buildings and space, and open it up more.


“At the moment, with the planning issues unresolved, we have given the go-ahead for only part of the project. We will continue to liaise with all the groups involved and keep people informed.”


Last year, the council agreed to an options appraisal to be made and commissioned an architect to examine this area of the park and come up with a series of proposals. Eight original options were drawn up with three shortlisted.


Owners of Fenwick’s Cafe, since April, 2014, Dawn and Rob Bunker were delighted at the decision.


Dawn said: “We have had so much support with tweets, letters, emails and Facebook messages. We have even had new customers visiting the cafe in support.


“The decision at the cabinet meeting was a huge relief that common sense has prevailed and perhaps the council are listening to the public.


“They will be knocking down the depot buildings and repairing the statue with the broken arm but everything else is to be put on hold until we now have a discussion with the planning department.


“The only reason we are told we cannot stay here is because the planners don’t like it, but they cannot give us any valid reasons.”


Dawn and Rob have a meeting today with an officer from the planning department after the outcome of the cabinet meeting.


She continued: “The first May bank holiday, on the Monday, we served over 1,300 customers. If this cafe was to relocate, can you imagine all of those people flowing in and out of the building in the corner? Behind there is the quiet, reflective sensory gardens which will be disturbed. They just haven’t thought this through.”


Chairman of the Friends of Priory Park, Richard Plowman, said: “We welcome this decision, its a really good result and shows the efforts made by the Friends of Priory Park.


“The next step is to go forward with the planning application to establish the cafe as the place that it is – the heart of Priory Park.”

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