Manager steps in to save Beach Cafe from closure

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A CAFE whose fate prompted a petition which gathered 3000 signatures has been saved at the eleventh hour thanks to its manager who has bought the building and agreed a new three year lease with Scottish Borders Council.

Earlier this summer, the future of Coldingham Beach cafe looked bleak after the local authority served its then owner, William Harrison with an eviction notice, citing Mr Harrison’s reluctance to agree to an increase in rent as the catalyst.

News of the notice spread quickly and locals and visitors alike were concerned that a facility which had been on the Sands for the best part of a century was in danger of going for good, with a deadline given of last week for trading to cease and the building to be demolished.

A petition was launched online and a separate paper copy circulated around Coldingham and the surrounding area, with people travelling from as far afield as Newcastle to put their signatures to it.

This was presented to Scottish Borders Council at council HQ in Newtown St Boswells and the new owner, Walter Powner, who will manage the day-to-day running of the cafe just as before, said the strength of feeling showed just how much people wanted and needed the cafe to stay.

“It was the weight of public opinion that was the deciding factor in me taking over and saving the cafe for at least another three years,” commented Walter, who also owns nearby St Veda’s Hotel.

“We came to an agreement with Mr Harrison which led to St Veda’s buying the cafe. I’m really pleased an agreement could be reached with the council as well and it should be business as usual when the cafe reopens for 2013 at Easter.

“Going by the reaction online to the news everybody seems to be thrilled.”

A council spokesperson added: “We are pleased to reach this stage as it means a café will be on the site for the next three years at least.”

Local MSP John Lamont, who helped present the petition to save the café to the Scottish Borders Council, expressed his relief at the news, but said that more needed to be done to secure its long term future.

He commented: “The café has become a key part of Coldingham; it has grown to be loved by everyone who has visited the beach since it opened nearly a century ago, as shown by the recent support received for the petition.

“The petition proves how key this café is to the area and those who visit it.

“The council need to and commit to keeping the beach café there for the long term.”

South of Scotland MSP Paul Wheelhouse also wants the council to make a longer term commitment, commenting: “I would encourage the council to consider a longer term lease up to 10 years as, in my discussions with Mr Powner and other supporters of the café, this is clearly vital to ensure the proprietor has a sufficient lease length to enable the pay back of any investment necessary in the maintenance and enhancement of the café.”