Support ramped up to save Fay’s Tea Garden
A DECISION to re-tender the café concession in St Andrews Park has been upheld, despite strong opposition.
The petition to save Fay’s Tea Garden received over 5,000 signatures and was debated at the full council meeting on Tuesday March 20.
Fay Aldridge, who has run the café since 2006, presented the petition and also spoke during the meeting.
She said that in 2010, council officers gave verbal agreement that they were happy for her to carry on running the concession for as long as she wanted. However, she then received an email just before Christmas 2017 from the council saying that they were putting the provision of the café out to tender in January 2018.
Speaking to the councillors that were present, Fay said: “I appreciate that the council and parks department are in difficult position here, and need to be seen to be fair in the process of granting licences to operators in the parks, as well as ensuring that they offer best value for the city.
“But that sense of fairness and natural justice must also apply to me as person who created this service in the first place, and the person who has operated come rain or shine, or like this week snow, for over 12 years.”
A video was also played, which showed some of Fay’s customers talking about the café.
One resident stated: “What I really like about Fay’s café in the park is everyone knows Fay, and Fay knows everyone”, and another said: “If she went, I really feel like the heart of the park would go.”
During the debate Carole Johnson, Labour Councillor for Ashley Ward, thanked everyone who had signed the petition and supported it in any way, stating that in agreement with fellow Labour Councillor Mike Davies they believe that the park contributes a great amount to the local community.
Speaking to Fay directly, she also added: “I want you to know you are in great company, and that we are, Mike and I, for you, not against you.”
Councillor Jude English from the Green Party, who also represents the Ashley Ward, said that it had been a difficult situation and that Fay had received an apology from the council in regards to the process being badly managed.
She said: “I think we all know that you are going to make the best bid” and “we’re all on your side Fay.”
However, she did also state that the bureaucracy and rules must be followed in order to ensure that all operators are doing the right thing, and so the process must go forward.
Responding at the end of the debate, Deputy Mayor Asher Craig summarised the council’s position about the retendering of the parks concessions, stating that “a great deal of thought had been put into the reallocating of these sites and how the applications would be assessed.”
She also added: “I am confident that sites like St Andrews Park and Fay’s café, which are run by independent traders, will have an excellent chance of winning the concession.”
Speaking after the meeting Fay said: “The support by the community has been incredible and overwhelming. I’d like to thank them all. I feel like I’ve been in limbo for the last four months and still have to tender. I know that 45% of the tender is to do with money and hope that the council listens to the community and what they want.”
Chair of the Friends of St Andrews Park (FOSAP), David Cemlyn said: “There was an outstanding response by the local community to the threat to the park's cafe.
" The matter of Fay's concession to run a cafe in St Andrews Park is still unresolved. There are legal issues which are currently in the hands of solicitors and so I cannot comment on these. However there has been a steady flow of emails from councillors, an officer and local people.
“Local people have questioned why a 5,000 plus petition is ignored. Also, why did the council support Fay for nearly eight years if the officers were not authorised to offer the concession.
"Others have remarked that it is hardly Fay's fault if the council do not keep records of its own public consultations.
“So what next? Perhaps Fay will win a legal concession or win the tender, if she decides to submit an application.
" If the concession is given to someone else and Fay and is kicked out of the park, then I can see a lot of challenges ahead.”
David added that if local residents are interested in supporting Fay, they can consider joining FOSAP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, write to their local councillors, pass supportive motions at their party meetings and most importantly, tell Fay she runs a great cafe and that they want her to stay.