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 (
Tony Rich, Chair of the Park User Group (