‘Let Fenwick’s Café stay in Priory Park after 2020’

Rob and Dawn Bunker, who run Fenwick's Cafe in Priory Park, pictured in 2015
Rob and Dawn Bunker, who run Fenwick's Cafe in Priory Park, pictured in 2015

Calls for Chichester’s popular Fenwick’s Café to stay put after 2020 have been made in light of fresh council plans for Priory Park.

Dawn and Rob Bunker opened the business in 2014 after running a similar operation in Bognor Regis’ Hotham Park.

Currently the husband and wife team have temporary planning permission and a lease that both expire at the end of 2020. They are hoping to extend the lease and potentially secure permanent permission.

However Chichester District Council officers’ preferred option for enhancements to Priory Park, costing an estimated £599,000, includes removing the café buildings.

Instead the brick pavilion would be retained and let as a café facility, alongside space for community uses.

Cabinet members are due to make a decision on the project on Tuesday.

Fenwick's Cafe in Priory Park

Fenwick's Cafe in Priory Park

Dawn, who lives in St Pancras, said: “Where is the business sense? There’s a perfectly good café, the public love where it is, it’s safe, it’s friendly and it does not cost the council any money.”

She added: “All I’m worried about is are they going to ruin something that works so well at the moment. We would love to stay there but they do not seem to be using a common-sense approach.”

The couple are hoping to work constructively with the council to find a long-term solution but she described how nobody seemed to understand the council’s reasons for wanting to move the café from its current location. She called on councillors to listen to the people as ‘it is their park’.

They built the wooden café buildings themselves and pay rent to the council.

Fenwick's Cafe in Priory Park

Fenwick's Cafe in Priory Park

Dawn said: “It’s business as usual for now. If we are not there in 2021 it would be a shame and a sin to pull down a perfectly good building.”

Alongside being family friendly and inviting in several schools for free ice creams at the end of term, the business aims to cater for a diverse range of people and acts as a community hub for nearby residents.

Richard Plowman, chairman of the Friends of Priory Park, said they welcomed better toilets, refurbishment of the white pavilion and replacement of the old depot buildings as ‘much overdue’.

But he opposed the loss of the Fenwick’s Café building and called for this part of the project to be dropped. He explained: “They have been key to the success of the park since they have been there.”

He suggested the brick pavilion would be the wrong location for a café, given it was so near the bowls club and the quiet century gardens.

Mr Plowman, who is a city and district councillor, said: “Dawn and Rob are part of the park family. They function as the eyes and ears of the park and also look after the residents that live around the park.”

He added: “Were they to go it would be a very sad loss for the park.”

According to an officers’ report: “The current café only has a temporary planning permission and initial feedback is that this is unlikely to be renewed on expiry in 2020.”

A number of events are being held in Priory Park later this year to mark 100 years since it was given to the people of Chichester. For more information visit their website.

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