Is council dragging its feet on café?

PUBLISHED: 12:00 26 May 2012

Volunteers who arrived to help clear up Clarence Park cafe last year.

Volunteers who arrived to help clear up Clarence Park cafe last year.


FRESH concerns have been raised over a community café in Weston which has been left a burnt-out mess since it fell victim to an arsonist last year.

Clarence Park café has been empty for almost nine months and nearby residents fear the community has lost a great service, with no effort being made by North Somerset Council to refurbish the site.

Homeless Nathan Cross, aged 18, pleaded guilty to stealing food and deliberately setting fire to the café on Walliscote Road between August 26 and August 30 last year, and was sentenced to four-and-a-half years behind bars.

But since then, the café remains have been left as a burned out ruin.

Weston resident Leonard Bullock, aged 72, is less than happy that the café service has been stripped from the community and that former tenant Tony Munden’s lease has been terminated by the council.

Mr Bullock, of Southville Road, Weston, also applied to run the café, but later declined after visiting the site and realising the large amount of other duties expected of its licence holder.

He said: “My concern is that there is no way that any one who takes no that tender or license can make a profit without putting the prices up immensely.

“The council is asking for the new tender to look after the café, the park toilets and the area it stands in, including the flower beds.

“I do not understand how a little park café can pay for all that.”

After Mr Bullock inspected the café he said he was shocked to see how superficial the damage is and cannot understand why it has taken so long to get it back in working order.

He said: “I strongly suspect the council is dragging its feet on this renovation. The café footprint is hardly bigger than an average garage.

“The damage following the vandalism is only superficial apart from the asbestos removal and work did not commence until January 2.

“Many friends of the park who are either in or retired from the building industry assess the renovation should not have taken two weeks. I personally could have restored this on my own in less than a month.

“The community has lost a service for nine months. Many elderly and single people have used the café on a daily basis as a meeting point. This seems to be of minor importance to the council.

“Mr Munden has provided a service to the local community for approximately nine years and opened 364 days of the year. We have said we want him back if possible and we want our café back as soon as possible.”

A council spokesman said the renovation of the café is almost complete and the deadline for interested parties to apply for the tender has now passed.

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