Tory councillor's café lease is extended despite 'monopoly' objections

The council has agreed to allow Tony Ansell to stay at the Park Cafe' in Abington Park - for 25 years.
The council has agreed to allow Tony Ansell to stay at the Park Cafe' in Abington Park - for 25 years.

A Conservative councillor has been granted permission to run his café in Northampton's biggest park for the next 25 years - despite initial objections.

Councillor Tony Ansell has run the Park Café for the past 38 years and has spent a significant amount renovating the property.

But he recently drew objections form members of the public and the Labour opposition at the Guildhall when, in October, he applied for another 25-year lease of the rate-free property.

He also asked to formalise the outdoor trading area of the popular café, which has in recent years appeared to spread out across the greens.

Labour said the move was allowing a Conservative Councillor an effective monopoly over a busy trading pitch and the objections prompted the council to launch a consultation on Councillor Ansell taking on the desired quarter-century lease.

But at this week's cabinet meeting, papers revealed consultees were resoundingly in favour of him staying on at the café and keeping his tables and chairs where they are.

Around 96 per cent of the 286 people who took part approved his tenure.

Councillor Ansell said: "We live in a democracy and the people have spoken."

And to the objectors, he added: "I've been here for 38 years. What would they rather have? A boarded up shop."

At Wednesday night the borough council's cabinet agreed to grant the lease extension with a caveat that the siting of tables and chairs is reviewed every year.

Among the objectors in October Ann Wishart, said the request for a 25-year extension was unusually “excessive”, when most leases run for 10 years.

Councillor Zoe Smith (Lab, Abington) added: “I am concerned about what appears to be a monopoly of not only catering in the park, but almost one person claiming ownership of the park, rather than it belonging to the people."

Though Councillor Ansell pays no rates on the Park Café, he does pay £172,000 a year in rent and says he has used his own money to renovate the public building. He believed the objection to his lease to have been politically fuelled.