No garden café for town's tranquil retreat'

PUBLISHED: 16:06 25 June 2009 | UPDATED: 11:16 10 June 2010

AN Exmouth couple who were all set to open a café in Manor Gardens in just two weeks, following backing from town councillors, senior district officers and the town manager, have seen their dreams dashed.

AN Exmouth couple who were all set to open a café in Manor Gardens in just two weeks, following backing from town councillors, senior district officers and the town manager, have seen their dreams dashed.

The Esplanade's Trish and Rob McOwan saw their plans for 'The Garden Café', a high-quality catering kiosk next to the Tourist Information Centre, backed by the town's Finance Committee last Monday.

It follows previous support for a café nearly three years ago, and this time they backed a 28 day trial period - the maximum allowed without planning consent - to gauge the public's reaction.

The McOwan's hoped this would eventually lead to opening annually every summer.

The plans would have seen a gazebo, 10 chairs with parasols, picnic rugs, teas, coffees, freshly made sandwiches, homemade meals and desserts.

At the meeting Councillor Steve Gazzard said: "It's a really good idea. I have had discussions with Rob Spears (Senior Estates Surveyor) at East Devon District council... this could work really well."

Town Manager Tony Collins said it would 'force others to raise their game', and added: "The whole concept is of high quality, not some burger van."

He added EDDC's head of Street Scene Mark Pollard, responsible for Manor Gardens, was 'very excited about it.'

But, shockingly, on Thursday following a meeting of the District Council's Asset Management Forum, Mr McOwan received bad news.

Rob Spears said: "I have now consulted with the Council's Parks' Development Officer, the elected ward members and the Exmouth Town Council, with mixed results.

"I recommended that...a licence to operate for a period of 28 days this season as a trial run to see if the idea is viable (the maximum permitted without planning permission).

"... the Asset Management Forum, having considered your submission, did not support the idea and therefore....the matter is not to be pursued.

"I am sorry that your idea was not considered acceptable, but there is a body of opinion that considers that the Manor Gardens should be kept as a tranquil retreat."

The Forum contains not a single elected member from Exmouth and Rob McOwan added: "It is sad, disappointing, but hardly surprising news.

"Thank you to everyone who worked so hard on our behalf and believed in the idea... we shall fight on, even though we have been told that this matter is not to be pursued.

"There was backing from people responsible for the gardens and support by local councillors only for the decision to be taken out of their hands by people who don't live here."

Town manager Tony Collins said: "The proposal was a for a short term solution (28 days) that would have given all the parties the opportunity to say whether it was a good idea or not.

"Clearly, there was a lot of local support for this and everybody involved is disappointed."

Do you think a café in the gardens is a good idea? Contact the Journal with your views, or log onto our website and vote in the on-line poll.

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