Users of a popular Lewisham park cafe are divided over redevelopment plans that could see the current independent trader replaced by a new operator.
More than 400 people have signed a petition opposing the plans for Ladywell Fields café, which are in a feasibility study drawn up at the request of the park’s user group, supported by Lewisham Council, which owns the space.
The study, carried out by architects, Studio-ia, focuses on options for revamping the Victorian lodge housing both the café and public toilets.
Customers fear that the plans will result in a new operator hiking prices to make their money back on the investment to redevelop the café building.
The study is part-funded by Ladywell Assembly, the local body established by the council, and commissioned by Ladywell Fields User Group (LFUG), which says it has 400-500 members.
LFUG secretary, Robert Sheppard said on the local blog Brockley Central: “There is a lot of misinformation about. This isn’t about the popularity or inadequacy of the current operator, it’s about the café space itself, and most Ladywell Fields users want a better café facility with indoor seating for all year round use, plus better kitchen and display space.”
“By all means sign the petition, but this will not stop the Council seeking ‘expression of interest’ from those willing to give us something rather better than what we have now.’’
Glen Washington, who has operated the Ladywell Fields café since 2008, said he had not been consulted about the feasibility study. Washington says, “A woman has come round a couple of times to take measurements and some photos but never asked me any questions.”
Jill Taylor, the petition organiser and café customer, who lives near the park said: “I’ve been coming here for three years. I wouldn’t be able to afford higher prices.”
Raymond Williams, another local resident who has also signed the petition added: “Glen has been here for six years and is hugely popular. We will see much higher prices a lot of people will not be able to pay”,
In a joint statement, the User Group and Council in a joint-statement said: “The current café space is inadequate in a number of ways – in particular the lack of indoor seating, protected from the elements, which would make the café more appealing outside of the Spring/Summer period…”
Once the bidding process is complete building work will start in Autumn 2013 with a new café to open in Spring 2014, according to the statement.
Ladywell Assembly is a ward community body established by Lewisham Council. An assembly acts as a residents’ forum for discussing local issues, identifying priorities for action and disbursement of monies from the Assembly Fund aimed at community projects.