Statement on Ladywell Fields Cafe Plans

Last week, we reported that the owner of the cafe in Ladywell Fields has asked his customers to show their support for the business he runs, which is potentially threatened by plans to create a new cafe with bigger and better facilities, similar to those in Hilly Fields and Manor House Gardens.

It's his livelihood and it's quite right that he should be given a fair chance to bid to run the new franchise, but a new cafe should be built. The existing facility is little more than a tea hut, which doesn't offer the range or the space that other local park cafes manage. Bigger local park cafes have become community hubs - the focus for a range of local groups and activities. Ladywell Fields' cafe hasn't. There is a successful local model - it should be copied. If the incumbent feels that he can meet the brief, he should submit a bid.

This statement, issued in response to the issue, sets out the case for a new cafe:

Over the last few years many Park users have commented – in meetings, by email and on the Ladywell Fields Facebook page – about the café. Two clear themes emerged from these comments – first, that the current lessee (Glen) is very popular and very committed to the Park and secondly that 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, and thus more viable.

The Park User Group responded to this by applying to the Ladywell Assembly last Autumn for a modest £1,250 to undertake a feasibility study to explore how, and at what cost, the building might be reconfigured to provide a better café facility. The Ladywell Assembly supported this bid and, following a tendering exercise, local architects Studio-ia were commissioned to undertake the study. The purpose of this exercise has never been to replace the current operator of the café, but rather to improve the facility to enable more people to benefit from it: the resulting additional footfall in the Park could also bring additional benefits such as improved safety.

How the cafe will look
Studio-ia began its work early this year and, having shown its early options drawings to the User Group and Council in April, undertook a widely-publicised consultation in the Park on 20 April. This consultation confirmed a clear aspiration amongst park users for a better café facility.
The final proposal, including helpful visualisations, was produced in early June and published on the Ladywell Fields Facebook page. This represents the way that, in an ideal world, the Council and Park users would like the café building improved. This will be used by the Council when it formally seeks ‘expressions of interest’ from all interested parties, including the current licence holder, by means of an advertisement in the local press. Bidders will be asked to outline what level of investment they are willing to make, in return for a long lease. It may be that not all those interested in operating the café will be able to invest all it might cost to achieve the full redevelopment scheme. As such the Council will be happy to hear from those who wish to submit an expression of interest that delivers enough of this scheme to bring about a significantly improved cafe facility. All bidders will need to demonstrate they have a costed plan and, importantly, have a clear understanding of the needs of Ladywell Fields park users.

Subject to the outcome of the bidding process (in which the User Group will remain involved) it is anticipated that building work will be undertaken from this Autumn so that the new café facility can open in Spring 2014. In the meantime the current licence, which would otherwise have been subject to a competitive tendering exercise, has been extended. 

Martin Hyde, LBL Green Space Regeneration Manager (martin.hyde@lewisham.gov.uk
Tony Rich, Chair of the Park User Group (ladywellfields@yahoo.co.uk)

18 comments:

Nelson N said...

What's wrong with the current cafe? Not enough mung-bean burgers? Green-fingered facism!

Brockley Nick said...

It's not about the menu. It's about the space.

terrencetrentderby said...

Here here kind sir, another honest business driven out of town.

Max Calò said...

The plan is very nice though. I hope it's done and Glen runs it.

Ian on the Hill said...

It does have one big advantage over the others - it's affordable by more users.
I sometimes wonder how it is to be a low income parent taking your kid to the park and finding even that's economically oppressive.

Max Calò said...

Indeed, and is also open all year round.

Brockley Nick said...

They're all open all-year round, aren't they?

CB said...

Absolutely - what happened to a cheap cut of tea to warm you up that doesn't cost £2+??

Jim said...

If ladywell didnt have a cafe provision, i would be alright with this. But it does. Upgrading tosomething fancier, that could well leave the current provider out of work (we have no idea if Glen has the means to run a more expensive operation) seems to me to be unnecessary, and a case o a user group with too much time on their hands...

iain said...

Who cares about indoor space in a park? It's a park, parks are outdoors. Go to le delice, Oscars, ladywell village cafe next to the post office, ladywell tavern, hilly fields or even the hospital has an indoor cafe looking onto the fields. The generic pseudo-cultured indoor cafe is saturated. Saturated in lattes.

Brockley Nick said...

"Who cares about indoor space in a park?"
Lots of people, that's why you find such facilities all over the country and the rest of the world and why they have been being built in parks for centuries.


"It's a park, parks are outdoors. Go to le delice, Oscars, ladywell village cafe next to the post office, ladywell tavern, hilly fields or even the hospital has an indoor cafe looking onto the fields. The generic pseudo-cultured indoor cafe is saturated. Saturated in lattes."



You might make exactly the same argument for cups of tea and packets of crisps from the existing cafe (if you want these things, bring them from home - they're cheaper, after all). The world is saturated in tea.


Stupid, reductionist argument.

flibble said...

It's about diversity. There are lots of places in Ladywell where you can spend a lot of money for coffee and cake. This is one of the few places you can get a nice cup of tea and slice of cake for £1.70.

Brockley Nick said...

That's not a very convincing argument. There are also loads of places in the area where you can buy what the existing cafe offers. Besides, as I've said, in my view, the argument for change has nothing to do with the type of food and drink sold. It's about the fact that a proper building is a place to meet and do stuff, whatever the weather. A tea hut isn't.

cuppicake said...

but the space will put up the food prices, cutting off half of it's current users.
Yet another 'space' only used by the middle classes.

It's all so bloody boring here all of a sudden. :(

Brockley Economist said...

Nick, that's not a very convincing argument either. If the cafe goes upmarket, some people will lose out. People who like cheap tea in the cold. Not me, incidentally, but it's naive to suggest that the new cafe will not have winners as well as losers.

freddy said...

Glen is as authentic as you can get. I love the fact that he's got honest cake and teas at a reasonable prices. We don't need another Pistachio, over-priced and over-rated cafe. As a mum I'm at the park almost every day and it gets used by a much wider audience than the cafe's at manor park/ hilly fields- even the kids can afford to buy something with their own money (not a sight I've seen at any of the other cafe's!). It's nice to be able to afford a decent cup of tea and a small natter. Sure a little bit more sheltered space would be nice but not it if it means prices go up- I'd rather it stayed as it is if so.

Parky said...

Does anyone know what will happen to the existing toilet building - is it being suggested that it should be modified or demolished? It is hard to see from the plans. What is the estimated cost of the project? Unless the project is funded by the Council or similar, the cafe prices must go up significantly to cover it. Glen's cakes are unusual and the best in Ladywell, yet modestly priced. As the saying goes "be careful what you wish for".

Tuna Melt said...

It will only enhance the area and create a safer, community hub, potentially creating more jobs, great news! Cafe on the Rye in Peckham works really well.

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