Future operators sought for two Littlehampton cafes

Plans to find future operators for three ‘well-established’ Arun cafés have been backed in order to make ‘significant improvements’.

Thursday, 29th July 2021, 1:00 pm
Edge by the Sea

Leases for West Park café in Bognor Regis, Littlehampton’s Mewsbrook Park café and Edge by the Sea at Norfolk Gardens, Littlehampton are all due to expire on October 31.

Rather than renewing the existing leases, council officers recommended that they are marketed and opened up to potential bidders.

A mothballed public toilet building in Marine Park Gardens, Bognor Regis, will also be considered for marketing as the building previously secured planning permission to be used as a café but this has since expired.

Edge by the Sea proprietor Charlie Edgcumbe-Rendle

A report cited a ‘need for investment’ as the reason for marketing of the premises which it says could improve ‘the public offering, the aesthetic presence within council parks and the income revenue generated via rent’.

Edge by the Sea proprietor Charlie Edgcumbe-Rendle said that uncertainty surrounding the lease is currently preventing him from investing money into much-needed repairs.

He said: “We can’t spend too much money on the building because we don’t know whether we are going to be here past September.

“I’m just in a state of limbo because a lot of it relies on spending money and I just don’t know whether I can do that if we don’t get the lease.

“A lot of cafés might want this building as well after they’ve seen what we have done with it over the years.”

“We’re waiting with guns drawn as money needs to be spent on the building.”

In the meantime, he has exciting plans for the café.

Themed supper clubs could be on the menu once a month, featuring cuisine from around the globe.

Mr Edgcumbe-Rendle said: “In the wintertime I’ve got to give people a reason to come down to the seaside.”

He also hopes to facilitate new clubs and groups in the café to ‘drive the community’ and the café’s ice cream kiosk has already been transformed into what he calls ‘the smallest skate shop in the world’.

He added: “The idea stemmed from being a skater back in the day and growing up around Littlehampton where there are no skate shops.

“There’s shops in Worthing, Portsmouth and Brighton but skaters in the park had nowhere to buy apparel or repairs.”

Mewsbrook Park café proprietor David Chace plans to bid for a new lease and hopes to ‘continue to develop the business’ if he is successful.

Mr Chace believes the way the council manages leases could be ‘greatly improved’.

He said: “I would obviously like leases to be renewed if the current tenant can meet the council’s plans and aspirations for any of the sites. If the current tenants can’t agree to the way forward it should go to the open market.

“It is an unfortunate way the council manages its leases at the present time and tenants are aware of this when they sign up, but yes the council could greatly improve the current system easily.”

Paul Broggi, head of property, estates and facilities, reassured ADC’s economic committee on Monday (July 26) that current tenants were aware of the lease conditions from the start and will be given all the information they need should they wish to reapply.

He said that if the marketing process was unsuccessful it could lead to periods of closure and significant delays to improvements.

Gill Yeates (Lib Dem, Bersted) expressed concern at the tight turnaround, saying: “I’m pleased to hear existing tenants are being offered the opportunity to engage in the process and are fully aware of that. But is the timescale optimistic?

“Six weeks seems quite short as it’s a significant investment we’re asking applicants to consider.

“It’s also difficult timing because it’s summertime, we’re still under some restrictions as well and lots of people are still working from home and may continue to do so.”

Councillors were told that there was ‘no alternative’ to the short timeframe and new businesses were already being consulted. If repairs are not completed during the quieter winter season, current leases may have to be extended or this could result in periods of closure and lost revenue.

Emily Seex (Arun Ind, River) asked that a ‘diverse’ range of operators be considered due to some providers running several cafés in the area already.

Councillors unanimously approved open marketing of the cafes.