Café will defy council deadline for good of village

Villagers line up along the proposed route of the drain system at a protest at the recreation ground on Saturday
Villagers line up along the proposed route of the drain system at a protest at the recreation ground on Saturday

A village café threatened with closure because of a land dispute will remain open despite missing a council deadline.

The owners of the shop and café on the Clapham Village Recreation Ground had been told by Arun District Council that a new toilet and drainage system needed to be installed by today or the café would have to close.

However, the owners say they never received permission to carry out the necessary works, despite villagers raising money.

“It is just ridiculous”, said Neil Austine, 40, who runs the Junction@Clapham shop and café with Mark Woods, 47.

“I am worried for the future. There are so many people who have come to rely on us.”

Mr Austine said he felt the café will have to remain open for the sake of the village.

The owners need permission from the trustees of the land for the drains to be put in. However, the trustees are in the process of transferring responsibility for the land to Clapham Parish Council (CPC), and say no work can be done until this happens.

Cliff Tomkins, chairman of Clapham Parish Council, said the council could not take over the land with a sitting tenant.

The resulting stalemate has dragged on for some time, while the August 17 deadline drew ever closer.

Neither the parish council nor the trustees had any new information to provide since the story about the dispute ran in the Herald last week.

Nigel Lynn, chief executive at Arun District Council, said:

“Formal notices have been served on the food business operator requiring the provision of suitable and sufficient drainage and WC provisions for the business by 17 August.

“The situation will be assessed after this time.”

Jayne Bunting, speaking for the village Save Our Shop campaign, confirmed the group would continue to campaign on behalf of customers of the café.

Over the years, the café has become an important and popular part of the village of Clapham. Mr Austine said: “I am fighting for the future of the people I have grown friends with here.”

“It is highly bizarre”, he added. “I have had to buy a new fridge. I am not sure how long it is going to be in the building.”

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