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Pavilion Gardens plans prompt fears for Brighton café

Fears have been expressed for the future of a much-loved café in the heart of Brighton as plans are put together for the Royal Pavilion Gardens.

David Sewell, whose family has run the Pavilion Gardens Café for more than 70 years, appeared to have been left out of discussions about the future of the gardens.

He said on the café’s Facebook page: “Just to let you all know that the ‘future of the café’ 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 won’t tell us what their plans are although it is fairly clear they want an opening into New Road where our café currently is.”

Mr Sewell also took to Twitter to try to seek assurances about the future of his business.

Council leader Jason Kitcat said on the café’s Facebook page: “I’m sorry for the concern but as leader of the council I would like to state very clearly that there is absolutely no plan whatsoever to close the café.

“The owner has been consulted many times and invited to many meetings over the plans for the Pavilion and Dome estate.

“The café hasn’t been in the same location for all its 70-plus years so some thinking has gone into whether it might not get better year-round trade elsewhere in the gardens and/or with a different configuration.

“These are just explorative discussions which the owner has been made aware of.

“None of this in any way threatens the café’s future. We are committed to improving the area for all including the café.”

Councillor Kitcat also said in a series of tweets that if the plans resulted in anything new, the current café management would be given first refusal.

The council is working with the Brighton Dome and Festival to apply for £22 million for work on the estate that includes the Dome and Royal Pavilion, including the gardens.

A first application is due to be made by the end of November with successful bids awarded money next spring.

Detailed costings and plans will be considered before a final decision is made in 2015, with work due to start in 2016.

Ian Chisnall, a community development worker from Brighton, wrote on his blog that he was “disturbed at the very clumsy and shortsighted manner in which this has been handled” and by “the potential loss of this wonderful community amenity”.

Mr Chisnall added: “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.”

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