According to twitter and facebook, Brighton Council and the Brighton Festival have been discussing proposals for a development in the Royal Pavilion Gardens that will bring to an end the lovely café run by David Sewell and his family. A café that has been in the same hands for over 70 years. In the scheme of world or even national events, this does not seem to be an important matter, but in the case of the 10’s of 1000’s who use the gardens every year, let alone those who will lose their livelihoods this seems a great pity. The café has a very useful website that provides an up to date menu, lots of historical information and testimonials.
Possibly the most distressing aspect of these rumours is that David Sewell appears to have been largely excluded from the discussions and the planning regarding this proposed change. This may in part reflect the fact that he is a tenant of the café and therefore he has no land to be considered in these discussions. However David is someone who knows better than anyone else what is happening in the area, not just because he runs the café which is a delight and a useful place to meet in the park, but because of his role within the North Laines Traders Association. On the Café Facebook page David has placed this statement:
Just to let you all know that the “future of the cafe” is very unclear. The Council with the Brighton Festival have confirmed at a recent high level meeting that we are not in “their vision” for the gardens if they are successful in getting Heritage Lottery Funding over the next year or so. They wont tell us what their plans are, although it is fairly clear they want an opening into New Road where our cafe currently is. The facts are that the Royal Pavilion (Council) and the Brighton Dome (Festival) are joining together in seeking up to £22 million of funding which will include work in the gardens. The first phase application will be made by the end of November with successful bids given money in Mar/Apr 2014 to move forward detailed costings and plans. Final decisions made in 2015 with work starting in 2016. A small Friends group has been very supportive and helping me over the last few months but I think the time has come to tell all our Friends about the uncertain future. Only the “Community” that the cafe has become over the last 73 years will give us a chance of survival beyond 2015.
If like me you are disturbed at the very clumsy and shortsighted manner in which this has been handled, or perhaps at the potential loss of this wonderful community amenity, can I suggest that if your are a facebook user, that you like the cafes facebook page. or follow them on twitter @pg_cafe and send some messages of support. The idea that public money (from the lottery) and public resources from the Council and Festival are being used or contemplated for a project that will affect the public and local businesses without any consultation shows a high handed disregard for the very objectives that the lottery, the Council and the festival were established to meet.