THE manager of a popular seafront café in Exmouth has expressed her concerns at East Devon District Council's plans to knock it down as part of its ambitious but controversial regeneration scheme.
Dawn Hirst's family have been the tenants and managers of the Harbour View Café for around 35 years.
As part of the Exmouth Masterplan, a document which outlines future regeneration proposals for the town, the vision is to create a "vibrant" recreation area between the old Lifeboat Station and the Maer known as the Splash Zone.
As previously reported by the Echo, another public consultation has been launched on the latest plans which incorporate the demolition of the Harbour View Café to make way for a new two storey café/restaurant.
The council has confirmed that the site will either be sold or leased on a long-term basis – either way, Mrs Hirst does not know if she will be able to continue as a tenant.
The 42-year-old manager said ultimately she wants to see the building saved from redevelopment and she wants to work with the council on finding a solution which would not mean the end of her business and the much-loved café.
She said that because of the short-term lease granted by the council, she has not been able to apply for the necessary bank loans to pay for desired modernisation.
However, she said the café's nostalgia and simplicity has ensured repeat business, both by residents and visitors to the town, for decades. She said if the council decides to redevelop the building, the worst-case scenario will be that she, and her staff, will be out of a job by the end of her current lease which is about two years away.
"When I first heard about the proposals I was completely gutted," she said. "The café means so much to so many people – people love it for what it is.
"It's so much more than just a café, it's a lifeline for some elderly people – I'm very sentimental about it and so are my customers."
Mrs Hirst said she would like to see the café modernised and improved but the building preserved.
"I want to work with the council and I hope they will listen to the views of the public," she added.
Redevelopment proposals also include the creation of two large play and recreation areas, a public square, shops, and a new watersports hub offering hiring, training and retail facilities. A hotel or holiday accommodation scheme is proposed for the northwest of the site.
The council "anticipates" that a new coastwatch tower, currently situated above the Harbour View Café, will be provided as part of any redevelopment.
In addition, car parking with at least 200 spaces would be moved to the rear of the site, with the current road moved back from the seafront to allow direct access to the beach and sea for all enjoying the watersports and play areas.
The plans are available to view at www.exmouthvision. com and in the window of the former Thomas Tucker shop window.