Despite a petition to save Delapre Abbey’s tea room gathering more than 1,200 signatures in a few days - the popular cafe is now set to close on March 31.
Northampton Borough Council had planned to move the eatery from its current location backing onto to the picturesque walled garden area, into a smaller 19th-century stable block to make way for a renovation of the abbey.
There is no financial reason to close the business in its current formCouncillor Mick Ford
But a number of members from the Friends of Delapre Abbey (FoDA), the charity which runs the venue, said they feared the move would drastically affect trade and reduce its seating capacity from 130 to 28.
This week Northampton Borough Council announced the FoDA board had taken the decision to close the tea rooms altogether on March 31 and make two members of staff redundant, due to what it described as three years of ‘operating at a loss’.
Leader of the authority Councillor David Mackintosh, (Con, Rectory Farm) said the borough council would ‘step in’ to provide a ‘pop-up’ cafe facility in the walled gardens as a replacement from April.
Attempts have been made to contact board members of FODA after the decision to close but no-one was available for comment.
But Councillor Mick Ford (Lib Dem, Delapre), who is a member of FODA, has disputed that the tea rooms was running at a loss, claiming that the Charities Commission website shows the tea rooms made a £5,639 profit last year.
He said: “There is no financial reason to close the business in its current form.”
Councillor Brendan Glynane (Lib Dem, Delapre) who was one of the organisers of the petition believed the FODA board should have consulted more ahead of taking the decision to shut the venue.
The Chronicle & Echo understands that a vote of no confidence is set to be put to the current board at its next meeting. Councillor Glynane said, referring to the council’s plans to provide a pop up refreshment facility in the cafe’s place, said: “This is just a short term measure and we are not interested in short term measures.
“We are interested in the community,” he added.
TEMPORARY REFRESHMENT STALL WILL BEGIN TO OPERATE FROM APRIL
A ‘pop-up’ refreshment facility will be provided from April at Delapre Abbey and will trade through the spring and summer in the Walled Garden.
The council says that the money already budgeted to move the tea rooms to the 19th century former stable block, around £200,000, will be ‘kept aside’ until discussions about the ‘longer term plans have taken place with FoDA and the Delapre Abbey Preservation Trust’.
The Council will now begin to source a temporary refreshment provider. Leader of Northampton Borough Council, Councillor David Mackintosh, said: “ Being able to sit and enjoy a cream tea in the Walled Garden is a really important part of a visit to the Abbey for very many people, so we will make sure that facilities are put in place so that refreshments continue to be available there while a decision is made about more permanent facilities.”