High tea for Hilly Fields [updated]

The prospect of a café in Hilly Fields is getting closer.

Lewisham Council is keen to replicate the success of Hither Green’s Manor House Gardens, which features a busy café that encourages greater use of the park and creates a focus for young families in the area. We understand that they have been investigating how the formula could be applied to other parks in the borough, including Hilly Fields.

The idea makes perfect sense. We've argued before that the miserable, neglected toilet block could be replaced by a cafe, with a duty to provide public toilets (and perhaps a drinking fountain). As the early success the Brockley Mess has had in attracting young families suggests, there is plenty of demand for a facility like this, so a cafe could be self-sustaining and offer parents of young children a place to take the kids where they can play relatively freely, nearby the newly-refurbished playground.

The site of the toilet block has been targeted for redevelopment and exploratory discussions have taken place. While the Council would fund the cafe's construction, a private operator would run the cafe itself.

"The provision of a cafe on Hilly Fields is currently under consideration. Should the Council eventually be in a position to obtain funding for the cafe it will discuss the options with the Friends of Hilly Fields to see how it can be taken forward."

We spoke to one person with experience of operating a similar cafe, who said:

"Brockley would be great. The demographics are perfect and Hilly Fields is right in the middle of a large residential area with lots of young families."

If the Council finds the money for the up-front investment it could deliver long-term benefits for the community and a new revenue stream in perpetuity, while lowering maintenance costs for the public toilets. We await the results of their investigations with interest.